Rafael Nadal claims eighth French Open title

Updated: June 10, 2013

Perhaps the best show from this past weekend was the one put on Rafael Nadal, who captured his eighth French Open championship by dispatching David Ferrer in straight sets.

The final was a bit anticlimactic following the amazing duel that occurred in Friday’s semifinal between Nadal and No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic, but when it was over Rafa had improved his record at the French Open to an unprecedented 59-1 and became the first man to have won eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament. 

Nadal turned 27 a week ago today, and with 12 major trophies in his bag it is worth noting that he is creeping up on Roger Federer’s record of 17.  Will he the one who supplants Federer in the record books? 

It is a big “if” at the moment, but if Nadal can remain upright over the course of the next five years he will have a legitimate chance of retiring from the game as the most decorated player in the history of men’s tennis. 

He is practically unbeatable on clay (has now won a staggering four French Opens in a row on two separate occasions), and regardless of the opposition he encounters will be the heavy favorite to win in Paris for at least the next three or four years.  The heavier competition will occur in the other three majors and arrive primarily in the form of Djokovic, an adversary who is at the peak of his powers and seems to be the only player on tour currently capable of upstaging Nadal when both men are playing at their best.  Djokovic looks like he will continue to be an obstacle for Nadal either in the semifinal or final rounds of all the big tournaments, so if Rafa hopes to catch Roger he will occasionally have to overcome “The Joker”.    

Speaking of Federer, it’s hard to gauge whether or not he will continue to add to his win total in Grand Slam tournaments.  He looked like a shot fighter in losing to Jo-Wilfried Tonga in the quarterfinals of the French, but he owns Wimbledon like no other and should be right in the mix of things when play heats up at the All England Club in a few weeks.  Any additional majors Roger secures at this stage of his remarkable career will only enhance his legacy and make it that much harder for Rafa or anyone else to ever catch him.   

In addition to the rising clout of Djokovic and the wily spirit of Federer, the main impediment that could hinder Nadal on his quest are the nagging injuries that often crop up and force him to shut it down for weeks and sometimes months at a time.  Nadal plays a brand of tennis that is fascinating to watch and impossible to replicate, but it is painfully obvious that it is a physically demanding style, one that is incredibly taxing on his body.  He has returned to good form following a knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of seven months, but with each passing tournament you just never know if and when his legs or joints are going to eventually betray him.    

Since returning to action in February, Rafa’s game and body have held up surprisingly well, permitting him to win his last 22 matches.  Records aren’t meant to be broken, and followers of this great sport can only hope that Nadal’s strenuous style of play allows him to stay on the court long enough to give Federer’s mark a serious shot. 

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