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A 15th grand slam title. A 10th French Open title. “La Decima.”
But for Rafael Nadal, plagued by injuries and forced out of tennis’s limelight over the past few seasons, Sunday’s victory at Roland Garros was “unique.”
A dominant 6-2 6-3 6-1 win over Stan Wawrinka ended a three-year grand slam drought for the Spaniard and the “King of Clay” is now back on his throne.
“It’s something very, very special and unique. A very emotional moment,” Nadal, who before Sunday had last won a grand slam title at the 2014 French Open, told CNN Sport’s Ravi Ubha.
“I’ve had some tough moments with injuries, but that’s part of my career, too. It makes things a little bit more difficult but when you win after all these things, it’s more special.
“I’ve always loved what I’m doing. I’ve always been working hard to do the things I really like.”
Back from the brink
A lengthy injury list — including trouble with his knees, wrist, and back — saw Nadal slip to ninth in the world rankings at the end of last year. But 2017 has seen a resurgence.
After being ousted in five sets by rival Roger Federer at the Australian Open, the Spaniard has been almost unstoppable.
Heading into Roland Garros, he’d lost just one match on clay in 2017. And from the moment he stepped on court in Paris, few dared to bet against him lifting the title.
For the third time in his career, Nadal won every set at a grand slam. He also pulls away from Pete Sampras in the men’s all-time grand slam list; only Federer, with 18, has won more.
But numbers aside, there were other reasons for Nadal to be emotional after his most recent victory.
This was the last time the Mallorcan’s uncle Toni Nadal — who was invited on court to present the trophy on Sunday — will see his nephew lift the French Open title after the pair agreed to end their coaching partnership in late 2016.
Nadal now turns his attention to Wimbledon.
Moving away from his beloved clay courts and with Federer expected to return to the men’s draw, tougher tests lie ahead for the Spaniard on the grass.
But for now, at least, Nadal reigns supreme.
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