Novak Djokovic must despair – Rafael Nadal can now win Grand Slams on one foot


Nadal celebrates his French Open triumph after beating Ruud (Picture: Getty Images)

As Rafa Nadal is continually questioned about his foot injury, and the new French Open champion speculates openly about how much time he has left and if he will be fit for Wimbledon, you do wonder what his opponents must think.

How could he have won a 14th title in Paris, or indeed the Australian Open final in January from two sets down, without proper medical intervention?

His doctor has clearly done a great job in Paris, injections to the nerve in his left foot meaning Rafa had no feeling in the area so, as the Spaniard revealed, ‘the foot was asleep’.

A penny for your thoughts Novak Djokovic, whose eyebrow must arch at any suggestion there is anything wrong with his great rival.

If last year was all about the Serb falling one match short of holding all four majors at the same time, then men’s tennis this year is about Nadal’s attempt at a calendar Grand Slam.

He has won the first two legs and Wimbledon is three weeks away. I think he will play, albeit with his first match on grass this summer coming at SW19. And despite the issues with his foot, you would still not bet against him taking this title too as he chases more historic achievements.

On Sunday he claimed his 22nd major, which sees him pull two clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Sport can become statistically overwhelming and the regurgitation of facts will never be a substitute for good commentary. There should be an attempt at a pithy summing up, a single line that paints a picture.

Nadal on his way to a 22nd grand-slam triumph

Nadal on his way to a 22nd Grand Slam triumph (Picture: Getty)

As far as the French Open goes with Rafa, perhaps it’s just a question – how can he only have lost three matches on the red clay of Roland Garros?

If he had only played three times then fine, but he has competed in the tournament on 17 occasions.

He won it on debut in 2005 and subsequently claimed the next three editions, including in 2008 when he didn’t lose a set in his seven matches.

In 2017 he matched the feat, beating four players in the top 21 in the world, losing never more than four games in a set. The lowest ranked man he faced was No. 63, a very fine player called Nikoloz Basilashvili in round three. Rafa gave him one game and that perhaps was an offer of charity.

Only Djokovic has beaten him twice at the French Open, the other defeat was back in 2009. That was against Robin Soderling, of Sweden, who would go on to lose to Federer in the final.

Rafa at the French Open is a near-certainty in a sport global in nature, richly rewarded and full of hungry young things eating tuna and nuts and dedicating their lives to excellence from the moment one of their parents shoved them onto a tennis court for the first time.

Rafa has seen off generation after generation and the latest to have a crack was Norway’s Casper Ruud. He only won six games and two of those were breaks of service.

Of course, Nadal was helped on his way to the title by his curtailed semi-final against Sascha Zverev, who had to retire in the second set. He turned his ankle over, damaging his lateral tendons. His shriek was instant and we all knew that was trouble.

And there may have been a shriek of anguish from the ATP office as well.
A French Open victory for Zverev was the only way
Daniil Medvedev could be denied the world No.1 ranking after Wimbledon. It is now a mathematical certainty the Russian will top the rankings after a tournament he will not have played in and even if Rafa Nadal wins his third grand slam championship of 2022.

This is because there are no ranking points available at Wimbledon after the ATP decided it had to respond to the All England Club’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players. This is an entirely self-inflicted injury, it looks petulant and I hope something changes between now and the start of the tournament.

WTA has a special star in Swiatek

Iga Swiatek has forgotten how to lose. Her last defeat came on February 16 and since then she was won tournaments in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and now Paris, claiming her second French Open title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Coco Gauff.

That is 35 matches in total which equals Venus Williams’ tally in 2000.
Swiatek is a cut above the rest and has become a hugely inspirational figure both off court and on.

In her winning speech, she had the presence of mind to mention Poland’s neighbours Ukraine and how they are not forgotten.

Poland has taken millions of refugees and is vulnerable to Putin’s aggression in a way we may not always be able to imagine.

TENNIS-FRA-OPEN

Swiatek (right) with Gauff after the French Open final (Picture: Getty Images)

Swiatek shows a high degree of emotional intelligence with comments such as these and her governing body, the WTA, which has stripped Wimbledon of ranking points over the decision to exclude Russian and Belarusian players, should thank its lucky stars there is such a bright star at the head of the game.

And congratulations to Gauff who started the French Open by celebrating her high school graduation at the base of the Eiffel Tower and finished it as a grand-slam finalist in both the singles and doubles events.

If she can control her forehand as well as she does her backhand then a first major victory is close by, and having an American superstar at the top table is never a bad thing at the negotiating table when it comes to broadcasting rights.

Maur debate over equality in Paris

Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo was criticised for scheduling only one women’s match in the prime night-time slot.

Iga Swiatek was among those left ‘disappointed’ after Andy Murray’s former coach said: ‘You have attraction and appeal in general for the men’s matches.’

Mauresmo pointed out men’s matches last longer, reigniting the debate about equal pay and the relevant attraction of the men’s and women’s games.

Would you like to see best-of-five women’s matches? Female athletes are certainly fit enough. Are some men’s matches boring because they are too long?

And what is the best way to measure commercial strength?
Here are two ways. Look at the TV rights deals for the respective tours and compare the prices of Wimbledon debenture tickets, which can be legally traded.

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