And for the third year in a row, his opponent in the final was Roger Federer. Nadal had won their three previous Roland Garros encounters. This time, he absolutely destroyed him. Of course Fed cooperated, especially in the first and third sets, by playing some of the worst tennis I’ve ever seen from him. Here’s an excerpt from a poignant report in the Times.
Many expert judges, with Bjorn Borg paramount, could not have been more wrong. Plenty of others had their worst fears confirmed. The signs previously were ominous and Rafael Nadal produced probably the most emphatic performance of his tennis career to grind the morale of Roger Federer so deep into the clay of Roland Garros that it might never recover.
For Nadal it was a display of sheer brilliance. We all knew he was a character with determination and a purpose that few players in the history of the game could match and here was consummate proof with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 drubbing of a player many would have loved to declare the greatest player the world has ever known. Such claims need a little reassessment once the Parisian dust has finally settled but one unofficial title now seems to have been settled; this 22 year-old wonder from Majorca is now almost undeniably the finest ever on clay.
Watching this total destruction of a player totally revered by his peers and fans alike was a strange experience. On one hand there was the knowledge that you were witnessing something very special, the like of which has not been seen on Court Philippe Chatrier for many years. Yet there was also an element of sadness because it seemed almost wrong to be staring at the normally so imperious Federer being pummelled to embarrassing levels of defeat in the way he has done to so many others over the years.
Nadal seemed to share the very same point of view. When Federer’s final forehand went long and a fourth successive French Open title was secured, he did not fall to his knees and roll triumphantly in the dirt as he has done on previous victorious moments. Instead he quietly raised his hands to the heavens and quickly advanced to the net where he would commiserate with the opponent he had left totally devastated.