French Open 2018: Rafael Nadal chases Margaret Court’s all-time record
What’s the story?
Rafael Nadal and historic firsts at Roland Garros are inseparable. The Spaniard, who is one win away from his 17th Grand Slam title, is chasing another very important record. With a win in the final, he will become the first man ever and the second player to win a staggering 11 titles at one Slam, a feat only achieved by the legendary Margaret Court at the Australian Open so far.
Court’s titles at her home Major came in 1960-66, 1969-71 and 1973. Nadal first triumphed from 2005-2008 before being halted by Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009. He regained his title in 2010 and continued his dominance until 2014, adding five more titles. In 2017, the Spaniard returned from a two-year barren run to accomplish a spectacular ‘La Decima’.
In case you didn’t know
That is not the only record that Nadal is chasing. A win will also make the 32-year-old the first player in the Open Era to win 11 titles at three different tournaments. The World No. 1 completed his 11-title haul at the Monte Carlo Masters and at Barcelona Open earlier this year.
The heart of the matter
Even though Nadal is the overwhelming favourite in the summit clash, the seventh seeded Dominic Thiem is no slouch on clay either. For quite some time, he has been touted as the rightful successor to the southpaw at Roland Garros.
With his three career wins over the Spaniard, all of which came on the red dirt, he has even earned the epithet, ‘Prince of Clay’. In fact, the Austrian remains the only one to beat Nadal on clay for two years in a row.
However, Rafa did have the big win in the semi-finals of the French Open last year, and that too in straight sets, showing his stamina and poise in best-of-five clashes. The Austrian does possess all the tools to trouble Nadal, but successfully doing it over the course of at least three sets might be too uphill a task for the first time Grand Slam finalist.
The much-awaited face-off between Nadal and Thiem is scheduled to start at 6.30pm IST on Sunday.
Do you think that Nadal can get his record 11th title at Roland Garros or will Thiem be able to pull off something extraordinary? Have your say in the comments.