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Tennis: Last Piece From Paris 2019 Rafa Wins • That’s 12 By Alix Ramsay

Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the trophy after winning the men’s final match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 09 June 2019. Nadal won the French Open title 12th times. EPA-EFE/SRDJAN SUKI



Am off home on the morrow…. that’s all folks from Roland Garros • French Open 2019 


History can be desperately dull. The greatest moments in the development of mankind reduced to a handful of dates, numbers and statistics, scratchings in a record book that barely give a hint of what actually happened.


When tennis geeks trawl through those record books in decades to come, they will see that on June 9, 2019, Rafael Nadal of Manacor in Mallorca won his 12th French Open title, the 18th grand slam title of his career, by beating Dominic Thiem of Lichtenworth, Austria, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.


Unless those geeks read that very carefully and then take a moment to process the information, they will not have a clue what actually happened in this summer’s Roland Garros final. Rafa won his twelfth French Open. He has been winning in Paris since 2005.


Only when he has been injured (knee problems in 2009 and a wrist issue in 2016) or that one season in 2015 when he showed signs of being mortal (his confidence had evaporated) has he not been able to walk away with the Coupe Des Mousquetaires. That is a decade and a half of owning Roland Garros. Most players would sell their endorsement contracts to the devil to guarantee a 15-year career much less 15 years of sweeping all before them.


No man or woman in the history of the sport has ever won 12 titles at the same grand slam tournament. True, Margaret Court won 11 Australian titles but she was playing in age when most of the top women did not make the trip down south to the land of sun, sharks and flies. In comparison to Raf’s achievements, Court’s now beaten record is little more than a dry collection of numbers in that old book.


But the record books will also show that Roger Federer has won 20 grand slam titles, eight of them at Wimbledon. On paper, he is the GOAT. But his eight cups in SW19 – a record in itself – pales by comparison to Rafa’s 12 at Roland Garros. And now that Raf has his 12th, he is just two major trophies behind Rodge. So the Roland Garros GOAT is nipping at the heels of the GOAT of everywhere else. History really doesn’t tell the whole story.


We all remember the noughties, the days when Rodge was in his absolute pomp. His tennis was beautiful, his talent matchless. But that ability to collect grand slam trophies as others collect stamps could not last forever – the rest of the field got better and it was not just Rafa elbowing him out of the way in the latter stages of the major events, there was Djokovic and Murray to slow him down. Not to mention Juan Martin del Potro. And, of course, there is the small matter of time: Rodge will be 38 in August. He cannot chase silverware in the way he did as a younger man.


But Rafa is something else again. Seasons come and seasons go and still Rafa keeps winning. His game style has changed over the years but the dominance, the brilliance and the unwavering intensity he brings to every match never changes. Tennis has never seen his like before and will never see his like again.


The first set on Sunday’s final was one of the finest played in a major final that anyone can remember. From the very first ball, the power, the intensity and quality of the rallies were beyond belief. Thiem did everything in his power – and his power is pretty damned impressive on clay – to stop the defending champion but it was never enough.


There was barely a cigarette paper between them: in rallies of five to eight shots, they were dead level, in rallies over nine shots, they were dead level. Only in the short points of under four shots was Raf dominating. But then when another break point opportunity went begging – another good serve from Rafa – Thiem look frustrated and out of ideas. And Rafa pounced and the first set was his. Or, as Thiem put it: “he took the chance and stepped right on me.”


The second set was not at the same level but still Thiem kept at it, never knowing let a ball pass him, throwing everything he left at the Spanish legend. And then he did a silly thing: he won the second set. Raf got tight as he served to stay in that set, Thiem broke it was one set all. And then Rafa regrouped. And you really don’t want Rafa regrouping and getting better when you are in the middle of trying to win a grand slam final. From that moment on, it was one way traffic.


At 33, Raf looked stronger than ever, more unbeatable than ever and more like the greatest player ever to lift a racket than ever. Not that the history books will record that. According to them he just won 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.


All of which leads us to believe the old saying that history is bunk. Or as Rafa is wont to say: “That is the sport. That is the true.”

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