Nadal and Wawrinka set for French Open final
Originally published on 10/06/17 00:00
Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka are the first players aged 30 or over to contest a Roland Garros final since 1969.
The pair have been battling it out in the upper echelons of the sport for the last decade and the Spaniard leads the head-to-head count 15-3. Their only previous encounter at the French Open was convincingly claimed by Nadal four years ago.
The Swiss recorded a rare success over Nadal in the Australian Open final three years ago and he collected his first piece of major silverware. It must be said, though, that the Spaniard was hampered by a back injury he picked up in the warm-up.
Keys to the match
Under the guidance of former French Open finalist, Magnus Norman, Wawrinka has continually found a way to peak at the biggest events. His timely ability to produce his fearsome best at the majors is primarily why he is bidding to become just the second man in the Open era, after Roger Federer, to win his first four Grand Slam finals.
The Swiss, who is on a 10-match winning run, whacked 87 winners in his bruising five-set victory over Andy Murray in the semi-finals. He finished the gruelling duel in emphatic fashion but just how much energy he has in reserve for the final remains to be seen.
Regardless of the opponent, Wawrinka will play the match on his terms. His phenomenal power-hitting is what propelled him into the Grand Slam Club and he will look to keep the points as short as possible on Cout Philippe Chatrier.
The longer the baseline rallies, the more it favours Nadal. The first set is always of the utmost importance, but it’s undoubtedly of greater signaficance to the Swiss, who has spent five hours more time on court than his opponent at the championships.
The 31-year-old has reached the final without dropping a set and he is just one win away from winning an unprecedented 10th French Open crown. With a victory, the Spaniard will collect his 15th major title and move ahead of Pete Sampras in the Grand Slam count.
Nadal, who will be delighted that the temperature is expected to hit 30°C in Paris on Sunday, will target Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand with his famous topspin forehand. The Spaniard will also look to play with the same aggression that took him to the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.
The nine-time champion has been beaten just twice in 103 best-of-five-set clay-court matches in his career. His astonishing record highlights the daunting task facing Wawrinka, but if the Swiss does get his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a second time, then it will be his greatest triumph yet.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets