French Open Final – Stan Wawrinka vs Rafael Nadal (9am EST, 2pm GMT, 3pm CET)
After 2 weeks, the French Open is coming to an end with the Men’s Singles final on Sunday crowning a multiple time champion. It could either be 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka or 9 time champion Rafael Nadal, who is hoping to secure ‘La Decima’. Nadal goes into the match a heavy favourite for his 15th grand slam title overall, a feat that would see him pass Pete Sampras’ in total slams won.
There’s no doubt that expectations will weigh heavily on Nadal to win the title, given his record at Roland Garros and clay in general – especially in best of 5, a format that he recently earned his 100th clay win in. He has been stunning from start to finish this year, not dropping a single set. Even better than that, his opponents have had very few chances to even do so. He has lost just 29 games in 6 matches and while that is slightly affected by a second set retirement in his quarter final match, it is still a ridiculously impressive record worthy of high praise.
After a stunning win over Novak Djokovic in the previous round, there were suggestions that Dominic Thiem could perhaps give the King of Clay a legitimate challenge. It didn’t turn out this way despite Thiem breaking to start the match, this would be his only break as the Spaniard took charge, eventually winning 6-3 6-4 6-0 in just over 2 hours. “He didn’t convert the chances, and that changed completely the match. These kind of matches, you don’t get that opportunities, then you are in trouble, no? He had opportunities in the first, opportunities at the beginning of the second, and then I think I played well, no? I played a solid match and was tougher for him.” Nadal said afterwards.
Meanwhile, Wawrinka had blitzed through the first 5 rounds in just as an impressive a fashion as Nadal did. Most notable were his wins over Cilic and Monfils in straight sets. The semi final against World No.1 Andy Murray proved to be a tough test for him with Murray four points away from victory in the decisive 4th set tiebreak. Wawrinka secured that and pulled away in the fifth, securing a 6-7 6-3 5-7 7-6 6-1 victory for the opportunity to earn his fourth grand slam and take over Murray in the standings. It was a tough match for Wawrinka although he admitted Murray’s struggles helped him out. “But last year he was stronger. He was very aggressive, and he never really let me install my game. That’s what I struggled with. Today he was less confident. He played a bit less fast. He was a little more hesitant, and that gave me a bit more time to actually install my game.” the Swiss said.
“When you play Rafa in the French Open, you’re never the favourite,” Wawrinka said. “If you lose, it’s almost normal. So I’m going to look for solutions, and I’ll have to be physically and mentally present and be strong. When I’m on a court, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the outsider. I don’t consider that I will definitely win because I’m No.3 seed. I know the pain when you lose. It can be very painful. So the moments when things go well, you really have to enjoy them fully.” While Rafa is 15-3 against Wawrinka, one of those losses did come in a grand slam final where a wounded Nadal lost in 4 sets at the Australian Open for Wawrinka’s first grand slam title. The more cynical tennis fan may have put an asterisk around that trophy but with Nadal in unstoppable form and seemingly as fit as he has been for years, this would be Wawrinka’s best slam victory of the lot.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in 4 sets