Sports Sunday Thread #2 For 6/6/10: The Return Of the King
Today is yet another example of that archaic proverb, "It changes real fast in sports."
Just three months ago, questions were being asked about whether Rafael Nadal could regain his form after all the knee injuries and his parents divorce. And though he showed some signs of getting back to that form in the Indian Wells/Key Biscayne doubleheader, he wasn't back at the level of being the clear #1 that he was at this time last year (before his knees started messing up again).
Today, those questions no longer persist at all. Not only for the 5th straight year do this man from Mallorca win this legendary title, but for at least the 4th time in his career, Nadal was virtually untouchable for the entire clay court season.
Only Ernest Gulbis (Italian Open) and Nicolas Almagro (Madrid Open) took a set off Nadal on the dirt this spring, and he didn't even exhibit his best tennis in his own opinion at any of those tournaments or even in Paris. He told John McEnroe after the match that he played his best in Monte Carlo, and the scary thing is that I really believe (and agree with) him.
Of course though, most will remember that for at least another time, Rafael Nadal did not drop a set in this entire tournament, going a perfect 21-0. And the fantastic feet is made the more impressive considering that most thought, including the terrific Brad Gilbert, that Soderling was going to get at least on set off of him today. And you couldn't blame anyone for thinking that, because with the conditions of cloudy skies amalgamating with the sunny moments, the history these two have with each other, and the Swede's form even better than it was last year, that had a very decent chance of happening.
But the greatness of a performer like Nadal is that in the finals of any tournament (especially a Grand Slam Final at Roland Garros), he always brings his best stuff and never takes anything from granted. Moreover, the fact that he was desperate to regain his title and get retribution on a guy that he hasn't had warm feelings for in the past (though they were cordial all the way at the match's handshake moment and the trophy ceremony) was paramount to why he regain his throne in emphatic style today.
Unlike all other kings, his crown is the trophy that he was glad to take a bite of for a 5th time. And also, unlike most kings, the Rafa one can regain his throne faster than he can lose it.