I can’t be the only one to feel it was great to see true claycourt tennis winning the day at Roland Garros this year.
Rafael Nadal and Francesca Schiavone emerged victorious and it was their athleticism and ability to build a point which shone through and resulted in glory.
I wasn’t a fan of the French Open – the long rallies were too boring I thought, serve-volley was what it was all about on the lush lawns, not run-all-day on the grubby dirt.
Nowadays the tournament is my favourite of the year and a chance to see players constructing points in long rallies.
Unlike some surfaces, power will not get you everywhere here.
Just ask the two beaten finalists at the weekend, Robin Soderling and Sam Stosur.
Both had been given big build-ups to their respective finals – Stosur starting a hot favourite – with power at the heart of their chances.
It mattered not a jot.
Stosur was outplayed by Schiavone’s guile, perhaps best summed up by the players’ performances at the net. Whenever the Italian came forward she put away the volley; when Stosur did it usually ended badly.
If Stosur was outplayed, then Soderling was crushed 24 hours later by an simply awesome performance by Nadal.
Plenty has been written about Nadal’s retrieving skills in the past but the beauty of his excellence is that despite the fact he’s been doing it for years, it remains thrilling to watch him get balls back.
Soderling threw all he had at the Spaniard but simply wasn’t able to put the ball past him often enough.
Nadal’s defensive game is the best I’ve ever seen – it’s not just that he’s able to get a racquet on the ball, it’s the fact that despite being stretched almost horizontally he is still able to put it back in play just inches from his opponent’s baseline.
Frankly, the word defensive doesn’t do justice to Nadal in any way.
It’s often used to describe his game – I’ve been guilty of that as much as the next man – but clearly Nadal has the shots to win points of his own volition.
Courtesy Andy Schooler @ Sportinglife.com