At the French Open,he reasserts his undimmed dominance of the game
RAFAEL Nadal’s ability to retrieve a tennis ball from the far reaches of a court,to keep asking his opponent to play one more shot,is well known. But its a marvel that it remains so undiminished,despite the strip of white tape that circles his left leg just below the knee. Ever since his first brush with tendinitis six years ago,experts have wondered how long Nadal can remain a top-level player. His neverstop-running style,they said,was unsustainable.
In February,when he returned from a patella tendon tear that had kept him out since July 2012,his future seemed uncertain. Would he still be as quick around the court,and would his strokes remain as venomous? The answer to both questions,it seems,is yes. Nadal has notched a 43-2 record since his return,and has just become the first man to win one Grand Slam eight times. His French Open win loss record is now 59-1. On the way,Nadal also showed that his rivalry with world number one Novak Djokovic remains as hard-fought as ever. Having lost seven straight matches against the Serb between March 2011 and January 2012 three of them Grand Slam finals Nadal has roared back to win four of the next five,the last being their epic,five-set semi-final at Roland Garros.
Womens tennis,on the other hand,lacks a genuine marquee rivalry. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova,both of whom have completed the career slam,should theoretically be this generations Evert-Navratilova or Graf-Seles or even Williams-Williams. Sharapova,however,hasnt beaten Serena in her last 13 attempts,stretching back nine years. Her straight-sets capitulation in the French Open final was dispiriting,but far from unexpected.
Serena has won three of the last four Grand Slams,and hasnt lost to anyone in her last 31 matches,across which she has dropped only five sets. Its an awesome achievement,but she herself might rue the lack of genuine challengers to her dominance.