It was a final that harked back to a couple
of years ago as Rafael Nadal won a hard-fought, four-sets French Open final
against Roger Federer at Roland Garros in a match that displayed some of the absolute best that tennis has to offer.
The two had not met in a Grand Slam
final since the Australian Open in 2009 when Nadal famously, callously, reduced
the then world number one Federer to tears by beating him in five epic sets.
Fast forward 28 months and the world
number one is now Nadal, Federer being forced to settle for third in the world
Nadal, of course, has held off Novak
Djokovic for at least another week in their battle for top spot; the Spaniard needing
to win the title and for the Serb to get knocked out before the championship
match to succeed in that particular task.
Federer produced his best match in a
long time to down previously unbeaten Djokovic in the semi-finals; the third
seed making the incredibly speedy Serb look a step off the pace at times as he took the match in four sets.
That gave Federer fans hope that the
man, who in Tramlines's opinion is undoubtedly the best player of all time,
genuine hope that he could record a first victory over the Spaniard on clay in
And for seven glorious games it looked
as though he could actually cause an upset on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
But Roland Garros is Nadal's turf, the
world number one losing just one match there in seven years, and with the same
tenacious spirit that has seen him battle back from injury on more than one occasion
in the past couple of years, the Spaniard stormed back to slam the door in
Federer's face once again.
Federer, to his credit, did not look
too devasted after the match. Disappointed, sure; of course no-one wants to come that close to
a major trophy only to have it snatched away from them.
But the 16-times Grand Slam winner
could not have played much better, particularly in the first set, and yet still
he came up short.
Nadal is the greatest clay court
player of all time and it is going to take something spectacular to beat him,
especially over five sets at Roland Garros.
The Swiss has, of course, lifted the
Coupe des Mousquetaires. He won in Paris
two years ago, beating Robin Soderling in the final to complete his career
But it was Swede Soderling who
defeated Nadal on that occasion, his only defeat at the tournament, and not the
And Federer once again came up short
in this year's final. It was a compelling, thrilling final but as soon as Nadal
battled back from 5-2 down in the first set, it was hard to see how he would
leave himself in such a vulnerable position again.
Even when Federer took the third set,
Nadal failed to look as rattled as he had in the opening few games and he
bounced back in suitably emphatic fashion to take the fourth and wrap up the
Federer knows he has beaten Nadal on all
other surfaces at all other stages of his career, although the Spaniard does have
a superior record in Grand Slam finals, having now won seven of their nine meetings.
And Federer knows that Nadal, now with
10 major titles to his name, will have to go some to overtake him on the list
of all-time winners, especially with Federer still only being 29 and having a
couple of years at least left in him if he wants to.
But if Federer were to retire
tomorrow, it's hard to see how he could do so without the regret, however
small, that he never managed to beat Nadal at the French Open.
It's the one last thing missing from
Federer's career check-list.