French Open: No end in sight to Rafa Nadal's clay dominance

  • 09/06/2018
Rafa Nadal
Rafa Nadal in action at the French Open. Photo credit: Reuters

Rafael Nadal says his domination at the French Open will not go on "for 10 more years", but watching the way he demolished Juan Martin del Potro to reach his 11th final in Paris, it was hard to see when his reign would end.

After a sticky first set, in which Del Potro's powerful groundstrokes and heavy serve earned the Argentine several chances to forge ahead, Nadal seized control with as devastating a display as he has ever produced on Philippe Chatrier court.

His 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory means he has now reached his 24th Grand Slam final and equals Roger Federer's record for most finals at a single major - Federer's coming at Wimbledon.

Only three times, including one injury withdrawal, has the Mallorcan not reached the French Open final since he first redefined clay-court tennis in 2005 as a sleeveless warrior.

If Austrian Dominic Thiem does win his first major final on Sunday, he will join Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling as the only two players to down Nadal on his favourite battleground.

Yet Nadal, whose all-time clay record now stands at 414-36, says nobody should assume his feats are routine and that each victory is celebrated like the first.

"Today is a day to rejoice," he said. "When you're in a final like Roland Garros, it's a great happiness.

"Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about. It may sound easy and logical, but I don't want it to be.

"It's not a routine. I don't want anyone to think that it's a routine - it's a day that I should rejoice about."

Nadal has dropped only one set so far in reaching the final - one more than he conceded in winning last year.

At times during the first set against Del Potro, especially when he was 0-40 down at 1-1 and 15-40 down at 4-4, it looked as though he might be in for a real scrap.

So what will he need to do to counter the credible threat of Thiem, the only man to beat him on clay this year? The answer, it seems, is quite simple.

"True, I understand that everybody here, you have to write things," he said. "I can say a lot of things, but the easiest answer and the real answer is to play well."