Nadal Lifts Trophy In Repeat
This match did not quite live up to it's billing as both men played some very spotty tennis early. As the match wore on, Nadal raised his game and played his usual gritty, consistent tennis. Federer meanwhile, looked hapless for much of the match. Chatrier court was offering huge bounces which had Roger spraying errors and pushing his backhand all day long. Unlike in Rome, Roger made few trips to the net and rarely hit through his backhand. These were the things that put Roger in a winning position in Rome and without those weapons in his arsenal, he rarely seemed threatening to Nadal.
After the match, Roger talked about how much harder it was to hit through the court here. Watching on TV it's quite noticeable. The play seems much slower here than anywhere except maybe Hamburg (where the ball seems to stay lower) and the court really takes hold of spin to give wicked bounces. If there is one court in the world that seems to have been built for Rafa's game, it's here.
Nadal's second Grand Slam title prevented what I believe would have been the greatest accomplishment in tennis history: Holding all four slams simultaneously on four different surfaces. People love to talk about Laver's calendar slam, but you have to remember that three of the four were played on grass. These days you have four very distinct surfaces that makes it nearly impossible to hold them all at once.
For Nadal, he miraculously defended all of his main point totals from last year's clay season. Amazing job Rafa and congratulations on an incredible spring. I really believe he'll be much more of a factor on grass this season, especially starting at Stella Artois where he's been given a very easy draw.
For Federer, I'm sure the disappointment is palpable. However, this was his greatest clay court season ever and he reached his first Roland Garros final; Something that Sampras was never able to do. On top of that, Roger actually prevented Rafa from gaining ground on him in the rankings. So his number one status looks very secure for 2006 unless he has major slips the next few months.
As the grass season rolls around it's now Roger's time. Hopefully, he can put this loss behind him and focus on his best surface. These next four weeks are when Roger can really re-establish his dominance and secure his #1 ranking. On Wednesday he starts his season in Halle. He's been handed a very tricky draw and I wouldn't be surprised if he fell to Gasquet in round two.
Regardless, clay season is over. Bring on the grass!!