Tramlines: All hail 'Incredible' King Rafa

Eurosport - Mon, 07 Jun 16:51:00 2010

Phew! The King of Clay is well and truly back; Rafael Nadal is French Open champion once again and all is right with the world.

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Nadal's defeat in the fourth round last year to Robin Soderling threatened to send the world spinning dangerously off its axis and towards total meltdown. Well, the clay-court world anyway.

And the Spaniard's subsequent failure to appear in the grass-court season due to injury and indifferent form when he did return left many wondering if the then world number one would ever win another Grand Slam.

His withdrawal against Andy Murray in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, with a recurrence of those knee injuries, seemed to confirm people's fears that Nadal's time at the top was over for good.

But just months later, he has bounced back not only to win the Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid Masters but also to win his fifth French Open, without dropping a set, and regain the world number one ranking.

You couldn't make it up. Well actually you probably could and it would no doubt end up in the bargain bin alongside other cheesy, feel-good sports movies such as Wimbledon or Rocky.

In many ways his win was even better than when he smashed Roger Federer for the loss of just four games in the 2008 final. Sure, Federer was the world number one at the time and Nadal's demolition of him was almost cruel, especially as the Swiss maestro had received encouragement by taking Nadal to four sets in the previous two finals.

But Nadal knew he could beat Federer on clay, whereas taking on Soderling the Spaniard had to overcome last year's demons of the Swede ending his unbelievably impressive unbeaten four-year run at Roland Garros.

And with the manner of Nadal's win this year, there is no reason why he can't go on to beat Bjorn Borg's Open era record of six Roland Garros victories. Maybe even Max Deciguis's amateur record of eight French Open titles isn't out of reach for the 24-year-old.

By the way, Rafa's reward for his victory? Why, a trip to Disneyland just outside Paris. Of course. Just what the 24-year-old will have wanted, no doubt.

It would be remiss of Tramlines not to mention Francesca Schiavone's victory in the women's final as well; such was the brilliance of her performance in Paris.

The Italian 29-year-old became the oldest first-time Grand Slam winner since Ann Jones won Wimbledon at the age of 31 in 1969.

Heading into this year's clay-court season, Schiavone had only previously won two WTA tournaments; in Bad Gastein in 2007 and Moscow last year.

But after helping Italy to their third Fed Cup title in four years on clay and picking up another red-dirt title in Barcelona, the Italian became the first woman from her country to win a Grand Slam title.

Credit should also go to Samantha Stosur as she continued her impressive run of form, taking out four-times French Open champion Justine Henin and world number one Serena Williams on her way to the final before simply running out of steam against an inspired Schiavone.

The Aussie's appearance in a first Grand Slam final is all the more impressive since she has done it despite being forced to take nine months out in 2007 when she was struck down by Lymes Disease.

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RANKINGS

Nadal is back to being the top-ranked player in the world, overtaking Roger Federer by 310 points. It will be tough for Federer to take that ranking back in the upcoming weeks, as Nadal has absolutely no points to defend whilst Federer has his Wimbledon title.

Elswhere in the top 10, Robin and Andy Roddick have both moved up a place to six and seven respectively while US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro continues to suffer in his injury absence, dropping another two places down to eighth.

In the women's rankings, the fortnight's unsurprising biggest mover is Schiavone, who has become a top-10 player for the first time in her career, jumping from 17th to sixth.

Australia's Stosur has moved nowhere despite going one better than last year and reaching the final at Roland Garros, and she stays at seven.

Svetlana Kuznetsova's failure to defend her French Open title means she plummets a whopping 13 places from sixth down to 19th, while Dinara Safina also tumbles a long way to 20th from nine after she failed to reach the final in Paris for the first time in three years.

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TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Winner: "It wouldn't be birmingham without the rain and forecast of rain until thursday!!!but if sun comes out I play tomorrow against julie coin!!" - Ah, welcome to the British grass-court Australian Jarmila Groth!

Honourable mention: "rafa nadal best ever on clay.... period" - Andy Roddick just says what we're all thinking.

Wooden Spoon: "Does anyone know if I am a Lakers fan or a Celtics fan?" - Serena Williams once again proves it's quicker and easier to ask someone for answers than have a think about it yourself.

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A-BOG v A-BOG

This is genuinely Tramlines's favourite part of the week as we pit the world's two most famous A-Bogs against each other in a head-to-head competition.

Sadly neither of them made it through to the French Open proper but both were in action in qualifying in the lead-up to the tournament.

Unfortunately for A-Bog (GB), he was pitted against Ireland's Connor Niland in the first round of qualifying and quickly came unstuck in straight sets as the Irishman won 6-4 6-4.

That left the way open for A-Bog (USA), who stormed to victory, in this battle at least, not only winning his first qualifying clash against Argentina's Martin Alund but also picking up a win against Israel's Harel Levy before falling in the third qualifying round to Germany's Tobias Kamke.

And all that means that A-Bog (USA) has reached double figures in the battle of the A-Bog's, with A-Bog (GB) starting to lag seriously behind.

Standings: A-Bog (USA) 10-6 A-Bog (GB)

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THIS WEEK

The AEGON Championships at Queen's Club in London is a small tournament, worth a paltry 250 ATP ranking points.

And as such it only attracts the smaller names such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick to mention but a few. Nope, Tramlines has never heard of them either.

After skipping a grass-court warm-up last year, newly deposed world number one Roger Federer returns to his traditional Wimbledon preparation tournament in Halle, with Lleyton Hewitt, Nikolay Davydenko and Marcos Baghdatis also opting to head to Germany.

The women's action transports to Birmingham, where China's Li Na is top seed with Maria Sharapova the second seed.

Belgian Yanina Wickmayer and in-form Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai are also in action alongside a whole host of Brits, including Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson.

Tramlines / Eurosport

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