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Updated: 10 hours 27 min ago

Brain Game: Nadal's 22 Minutes Of Mayhem

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 8:53pm

It was 22 minutes of mayhem.

The match lasted two hours and five minutes, but the torturous time the ball was in play was just 21 minutes and 59 seconds. It must have felt like an eternity for Stan Wawrinka.

Rafael Nadal defeated Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday afternoon at Roland Garros. From 2-2 in the first set, it was basically game over.

Overall, Nadal won 94 points to 57 (62%). The average point duration for the match was just eight seconds. Eight seconds of side-to-side, lactic acid domination. Eight seconds of Nadal running Wawrinka to whatever arrondissement of Paris he wanted him to go.

Wawrinka is so dangerous when he gets to step into a ball, but he spent the majority of the 22 minutes out wide on the edges of the court, playing defense against the best clay courter of all time.

Has Nadal ever played a better match than he did this afternoon in Paris? Maybe. Maybe not.

More: Nadal Reflects On 'Perfect' Roland Garros

Forehands

The most influential shot on the court was Nadal’s forehand. He only hit 14 forehand winners, but that was three more than Wawrinka’s 11. When Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovic to win the Roland Garros title in 2015, Wawrinka crushed 60 total winners. Today he could not even manage a third of that (19). Wawrinka hit 26 forehand winners against Djokovic, but just 11 against Nadal.

The flow of rallies constantly saw Nadal hitting deep, aggressive forehands, while Wawrinka was on defense out wide on the edges of the court. Wawrinka made 20 forced errors on his forehand side and 17 unforced. Wawrinka essentially played the entire match on his back foot.

Backhands

The Nadal backhand was rock solid. He hit five backhand winners, but committed only 14 total backhand errors. Both of those metrics trumped Wawrinka, who managed just three winners on the backhand wing while committing a substantial 28 backhand errors. The Spaniard measured incredible range off the backhand wing, consistently going cross-court to make Wawrinka have to hit defensive forehands on the run.

Serving

When serving in the Deuce court, Nadal won a mind-blowing 91 per cent (20/22) of his first-serve points. On second serve, he won 67 per cent (8/12). That never happens.

Nadal faced only one break point for the match, at 1-1, 30/40 in the first set. As expected, Nadal served out wide in the Ad court, but Wawrinka missed a backhand return wide and long. Nadal then hit a 189kmh ace out wide in the Deuce court, and won the following point off a Wawrinka missed forehand return.

Overall for the tournament, Nadal won 72 per cent of his first-serve points, and a mind-blowing 74 per cent of his second-serve points. The Spaniard won 65 per cent (15-23) of his second serve points against Wawrinka.

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Baseline

Nadal won an impressive 60 per cent (370/618) of his baseline points for the tournament, and a lights-out 65 per cent (58/89) against Wawrinka in the final. The primary tactic was to force Wawrinka to hit defensive backhands in Ad court exchanges. Nadal then made the Swiss star hit defensive forehands out wide.

Wawrinka hardly stepped into a ball all afternoon. You’ve got to give Nadal all the credit for creating that dynamic.

Summary

Nadal was +19 in the 0-4 shot rally length, +12 in the 5-8 shot rally length, and just +6 in the 9+ shot rally length. Nadal owned the short points, and won a ridiculously high 90 per cent (18/20) of his points at net. He also never served a double fault.

This is the new version of Rafael Nadal that had the fingerprints of new coach, Carlos Moya, all over it. Rafa didn’t grind. He didn’t wait. He was always on the front foot and always looking to make Wawrinka uncomfortable.

This match was also vintage Toni Nadal. You don’t win 10 Roland Garros titles without an extremely knowledgeable mentor. When it was all said and done, it was Uncle Toni who handed Rafa the trophy. Perfect symmetry for La Decima. 

Nadal: It Was A Perfect Roland Garros

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 8:11pm

Twelve years ago, a precocious, long-haired Rafael Nadal stood on Court Philippe Chatrier with his arms wrapped around the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the first time. For more than a decade, the Spaniard re-wrote the history books with a clay-court mastery never before witnessed.

On Sunday, Nadal cemented his Roland Garros legacy with an extraordinary, incomprehensible 10th victory at the clay-court Grand Slam. Few superlatives accurately reflect the magnitude of Nadal's achievement and the Spaniard himself struggled to find the right words to describe his emotions.

"It's about the work you put in every day," Nadal said to the assembled media following a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Stan Wawrinka. "It happened 10 times here already. All the things that happened in this tournament for me have been magical. I'm very happy for everything.

"Today was a very important day for me. There have been some tough moments and injuries, so it's great to have a big success like this again. I'm happy because I have been working a lot to be where I am today... The only thing that I know is I am playing well now. I am happy. I am enjoying every week and I want to continue like this. I am going to try to keep working hard to enjoy more beautiful weeks."

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Nadal's journey to his 15th Grand Slam crown was his most dominant yet. A relentless force throughout the fortnight in Paris, the new World No. 2 marched to the trophy without dropping a set. Moreover, his 35 games lost is just the second fewest en route to a major title in the Open Era. He also became just the third player to win a Grand Slam title in his teens, 20s and 30s, joining Ken Rosewall and Pete Sampras.

"You know, on paper, when you look at the scores, it all seems fairly easy. But it's not... I have been playing great during the whole event, since the beginning. So it was a perfect Roland Garros for me.

"It's not that I am playing more or less aggressive. I am playing well. And when you play well, you have the chance to play more aggressive. I won in two hours because I didn't lose a set during the whole event and not one set went to five - 5-all - so that's why the time on court had not been that long."

Nadal didn't just turn back the clock with his run through the clay-court season, posting a 24-1 record and emerging victorious in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He sent a message to the rest of the ATP World Tour in establishing a 2,870-point lead in the Emirates ATP Race To London. There seems to be no stopping the Spaniard in 2017.

"Winning these kind of titles, then you have chances to become any number on the ranking. If I am able to keep playing well, why not?" Nadal added when asked about his prospects to return to World No. 1 .

10 trophies, infinite emotions // 10 trophées, beaucoup plus d'émotions. #LaDecima pic.twitter.com/wmXGiHRlbU

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 11, 2017

"It is true that this one is going to be one of the more special for the number [10], for the ceremony after the final, for so many things. And because I am 31 already and not a kid anymore. Because of the level of tennis and accepting that I have had physical problems for the last period of time, that's an important one."

With a surge of momentum at his back, the Manacor native will next look to conquer the grass as he heads to London for the Aegon Championships and Wimbledon. Nadal, the 2008 champion at Queen's Club and two-time titlist at the All England Club, will return to the tournaments for the first time since 2015.

While he eagerly anticipates his return to the prestigious events, Nadal is well aware of the challenges ahead.

"I'm going to be under pressure in one week when I play in Queen's. That's the real thing and that's the sport. And that's the beautiful thing about our sport. My motivation is still there. I really want to keep competing for important things and I am going to keep working hard to try to have more days like today.

"That's my motivation and that's why I am playing tennis, still playing tennis, because I have the passion for the game and I like the competition. I will keep having chances to compete for the most important things and that's what I want to try to do."

Sugita Opens Grass Season With Surbiton Title

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 7:29pm

A LOOK BACK

Aegon Surbiton Trophy (Surbiton, U.K.): Sixth seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan came out on top in a tight 7-6(7), 7-6(8) final over seventh seed Jordan Thompson of Australia. Sugita saved two set points in the second-set tie-break at 6/7 and 7/8. He didn’t drop a set throughout the tournament, surviving a waterlogged week in London. 

The 28 year old picks up his ninth ATP Challenger Tour title and his first on grass. Three of those titles have come this year, including victories in Yokohama and Shenzhen. Sugita joins Janko Tipsarevic, Aljaz Bedene and Thomas Fabbiano as the only players with at least three Challenger titles in 2017.

UniCredit Czech Open (Prostejov, Czech Republic): Second seed Jiri Vesely delighted the home crowd with a 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 win over Federico Delbonis of Argentina. Vesely served to stay in the match at 4-5 in the deciding set. He picks up his third title at this event, having also won in 2014-2015, and improves to 21-3 in six appearances here. The win gives the Czech player his sixth Challenger title and is projected to boost him to No. 42 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday, just seven spots off his career-high standing.

.@jiri_vesely lifts his sixth #ATPChallenger trophy and fifth on Czech soil, prevailing in Prostejov on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/VEIRUQsr8s

— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) June 10, 2017

WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID

Vesely: "In the first set, I made a few errors, didn’t press enough and, most importantly, lost my serve three times. I lost my serve at the very beginning of the second set and it became more difficult. Fortunately, I broke him back and then I played better. In the third set, I had three break points at the beginning which I didn’t convert. My performance was not great today, but I managed to win which is the most important thing.

"I really wanted to win the tournament very much. I’ve said it a few times that it was not about the points, but a matter of heart for me."

A LOOK AHEAD

There are four Challengers on the schedule this week, with the $150,000 event in Nottingham, U.K., taking top billing. This event was held as an ATP World Tour tournament last year. Local favourite Daniel Evans is the top seed and Marius Copil of Romania is the second seed. A slew of #NextGenATP players are also in the draw, including Canadian Denis Shapovalov, Akira Santillan of Japan, and Americans Michael Mmoh and Reilly Opelka, who face off in the opening round.

The long-standing $150,000 tournament in Caltanissetta, Italy, celebrates its 19th consecutive year. Former Top 5 player Tommy Robredo is a past champion (2012). Home favourite Paolo Lorenzi is the top seed and Serbian Dusan Lajovic is the second seed. Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan is the third seed and Radu Albot of Moldova is the fourth seed. Rounding out the field is #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev.

The $75,000 event in Lyon, France, is back for the second consecutive year. Argentine Horacio Zeballos is the top seed and Spaniard Marcel Granollers features as the second seed. #NextGenATP players Casper Ruud of Norway and Duckhee Lee of Korea are the fourth and seventh seeds, respectively, joining another #NextGenATP star in Sweden’s Elias Ymer. Rising 16-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is a wild card entrant.

Lastly, the ATP Challenger Tour welcomes a new stop with the $50,000 tournament in Lisbon, Portugal. Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the top seed and Czech Adam Pavlasek is the second seed.

View Draws & Watch Free Live Streams

ATP CHALLENGER TOUR ON TWITTER: The ATP Challenger Tour has launched a dedicated Twitter account for the latest news and information about players and events. Follow @ATPChallengerTour at twitter.com/ATPChallengerTour.

Wawrinka Takes The Positives From Roland Garros Run

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 5:57pm

Although he was disappointed to suffer a one-sided loss to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final, Stan Wawrinka is choosing to focus on the gains he’s made over the past three weeks.

Congratulations on a great fortnight in Paris, Stan.

Always a champion. #RG17 pic.twitter.com/DMv2V0YEBC

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 11, 2017

Wawrinka started his clay season with a 2-3 record before coming alive at the right moment, as he so often has throughout his career. He retained his title on home soil in Geneva and then stormed into the semi-finals in Paris without losing a set. On Friday, his fitness was on full display as he fought through World No. 1 Andy Murray in a marathon five-set match.

The Swiss star admitted not being able to replicate that same level against Nadal, but said simply making another it to a Grand Slam final is a positive result for him.

“I was nervous this morning about the match, about the final, about playing against him. But when I entered the court, I enjoyed it and appreciated being in the final of a Grand Slam. That's always something special and you need to see that from the bigger picture,” said Wawrinka. “This score wasn't good. The match wasn't good. But at the end of the day, there are a lot of positives to take from the past few weeks.

“I was really down three weeks ago, not winning matches in Masters 1000 events or playing my best tennis. There was a lot in doubt in my game,” he added. “In three weeks, I won in Geneva and made the final of a Grand Slam, so that's big for me.”

"I know what it takes to win a Grand Slam tournament. I have done it before."

Wawrinka savors 2nd RG final: https://t.co/UMBK0KghFH #RG17 pic.twitter.com/eswn5JzuDz

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 11, 2017

Wawrinka was also full of praise for Nadal completing the historic La Decima at this event. Having faced Nadal in 19 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with the first dating back to the 2007 Australian Open, he boldly claimed that the Spaniard has reached new heights with his tennis.

“What he did is so big for the sport. He’s playing the best he’s ever played,” said Wawrinka. “He’s an amazing fighter. There is always one more ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce than what other players can make on this surface. He creates a doubt that you can’t have if you want to beat him.”

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Wawrinka, No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings will put on his grass-court shoes in a few days as he competes next at the Aegon Championships in London, which starts 19 June. Wawrinka has hired Paul Annacone for the grass-court season in a bid to prevail at Wimbledon, the lone Grand Slam he has yet to win.

“I want to progress and make strides. I'm very happy with my team and all the people who are around me. But we had some discussions in order to get a new vision and another view of my game. That's why we have decided to turn to Paul,” said Wawrinka. “He has a lot of experience, so I hope that I will move in the right direction.”

Roland Garros">

5 Things We Learned: Roland Garros

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 4:51pm

1. Nadal Continues To Make History

Rafael Nadal transcended tennis history with his performance at Roland Garros, achieving one of the greatest feats in sports by completing La Decima with a victory over Stan Wawrinka in the final. He picked up his 15th Grand Slam title, surpassing Pete Sampras on the all-time win list and only trailing Federer at 18. Nadal dropped just 35 games, an average of five per match, to finish off one of the most flawless performances at a Grand Slam in the Open Era.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see anyone match Nadal’s level of dominance at Roland Garros. He officially joins other legends of the sport in producing jaw-dropping moments that may never be repeated, such as Rod Laver winning a calendar-year Grand Slam twice.

Nadal will move up to No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday, marking the first time he’s been in the Top 2 since October 2014. If he continues this level of play in the second half of 2017, he'll be the hot favourite to finish the year as No. 1.

2. Wawrinka Always Raises His Level For Slams

Although Sunday’s final didn’t go the way he envisioned, Wawrinka should be still commended for a tremendous fortnight. Not many people would have penned the Swiss star for his second Roland Garros final at the start of the event. He opened his clay season with a tame 2-3 record. Despite retaining his title on home soil in Geneva, it was unclear if his form would lead to another big run at a major.

But like he has done throughout his career, Wawrinka produced his best tennis when it mattered most. He stormed into the final four without losing a set and then prevailed in an epic five-set battle over World No. 1 Andy Murray in the semi-finals. In reaching the championship, he became the oldest man to play a final in Paris since Niki Pilic in 1973.

Wawrinka is already looking ahead to Wimbledon by hiring respected coach Paul Annacone for the grass-court season. As he looks to triumph at the only Grand Slam he’s yet to win, hearing a new voice could serve him well as he seeks to build on his recent success.

3. Murray Is Back In Business

After a disappointing clay season by his high standards heading into Paris, Murray turned the corner with a semi-final finish. After struggling in his first two rounds, he continued to improve with every match, scoring impressive wins over Juan Martin del Potro, #NextGenATP player Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori. Fitness played a factor in Murray fading out in the fifth set against Wawrinka, but it was vintage tennis from the Brit for most of the match.

The World No. 1 now turns his attention to his strongest surface as he aims to defend titles at the Aegon Championships and Wimbledon. With an always-supportive home crowd sure to back him over the next few weeks, a revitalised Murray is likely to make plenty of noise on the grass.

4. Thiem’s Stock Continues To Rise

Dominic Thiem turned in another solid performance by reaching the semi-finals before falling to a red-hot Nadal. The Austrian was particularly impressive in his quarter-final match against Novak Djokovic, finishing with a bagel set to pick up his first win over the Serbian in six attempts. Thiem was the second-most dominant player on clay this year behind Nadal, scoring numerous wins over top players and going deep in almost every event he entered.

Although Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that Thiem hasn’t reached the second week of, he has the game to excel there. He defeated Roger Federer last year en route to prevailing in Stuttgart (d. Kohlschreiber) and reached the semi-finals in Halle. Thiem is currently No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Race to London and will go deep at SW19 if he continues to produce his current level of tennis.

5. Any Team Can Win In Doubles

Not many people would have pegged Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus to win the doubles title, but their triumph shows the level of depth in the game. The doubles draw was particularly wild this fortnight, with only five seeded teams advancing to the third round. The top two seeds (Kontinen/Peers, Herbert/Mahut) bowed out in the first round for the first time in the Open Era at Roland Garros.

With three different teams also prevailing in the Masters 1000 clay-court events this year (Bopanna/Cuevas in Monte-Carlo, Kubot/Melo in Madrid and Herbert/Mahut in Rome), it’s anyone’s guess as to who will assert their dominance during the grass-court season.

Social Reacts to Nadal's Triumph

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 4:38pm

Tennis fans, media and players worldwide celebrated as Rafael Nadal claimed a historic 10th Roland Garros crown with a straight-sets win over Stan Wawrinka in Sunday's final in Paris. See how they reacted on social media to the Spaniard's feat.

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10 ...... 10 ....... 10 ..... you can say it as much as you want. It's so not normal. Huge respect for @RafaelNadal .. pleasure to watch

— andyroddick (@andyroddick) June 11, 2017

Congratulations @RafaelNadal on your historic 10th @rolandgarros championship. You are an inspirational champion on and off the court.

— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 11, 2017

Rafael Nadal!! Único

Nadal Dominant In Winning 10th Roland Garros Title

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 3:48pm

With yet more history on the line, Rafael Nadal delivered perhaps his finest performance during a Roland Garros final on Sunday, pushing three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka off the court with blistering forehands to win his 10th Roland Garros title 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

“La Décima” lifts Nadal to truly historic territory. He becomes the first man or woman in the Open Era to win 10 titles at a Grand Slam.

Most titles at the same Grand Slam tournament (men and women)

Player

Grand Slam Titles

Years

Margaret Court

Australian Open* 11

1960-66, 1969-71, 1973

Rafael Nadal

Roland Garros 10

2005-08, 2010-2014, 2017

Martina Navratilova

Wimbledon 9

1978-79, 1982-87, 1990

*Known as Australian Championships before 1969

He climbs to second place on the all-time Grand Slam titles list, separating himself from Pete Sampras in the standings. Nadal now sits only three Grand Slam titles away from matching his long-time rival Roger Federer.

Player

No. of Grand Slam titles

Roger Federer

18

Rafael Nadal

15

Pete Sampras

14

Novak Djokovic

12

Roy Emerson

12

Bjorn Borg

11

Rod Laver

11

Most impressively, Nadal, who turned 31 on 3 June, achieved it all with a historic fortnight. He sprinted through the Roland Garros field, not dropping a set en route to the Roland Garros title for the third time in his career – also 2008 and 2010.

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It was also nearly the best run at a Grand Slam since the Open Era began 49 years ago, in April 1968. Only Bjorn Borg during the 1978 Roland Garros dropped fewer games en route to a Grand Slam title.

Fewest games dropped in winning a Grand Slam title*

Bjorn Borg

32

1978 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal

35

2017 Roland Garros

Bjorn Borg

38

1980 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal

41

2008 Roland Garros

*Where all matches played were best-of-five-sets

“[It's] been magical, all the things that have happened in this tournament for me. I'm so very happy for everything,” Nadal said. “Today was a very important day for me. There have been some tough moments... injuries, so it's great to have big success like this again.”

Nadal will rise to No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since October 2014. He'll receive 2,000 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €2,100,000 in prize money. He also places himself in prime position to finish the season as year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since 2013.

Nadal's 53rd clay-court title caps a remarkable 12-month turnaround for the Spaniard. A year ago, he left Roland Garros in disappointment, having to retire from his third-round match against countryman Marcel Granollers because of a left wrist injury. Nadal then cut his 2016 season short to give himself more time to recuperate.

To state the obvious: The strategy has worked. Nadal has reached a tour-leading seven finals so far this season, starting the season with final runs at the Australian Open, the Abierto Mexicano Telcel and at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Nadal fell to Federer in two of the three title matches, but on the red dirt in Europe, the Spaniard has been nearly perfect.

He won 24 of the 25 matches he played on clay, winning his 10th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and his 10th Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Nadal also celebrated his fifth Mutua Madrid Open title.

The Spaniard's only loss came in Rome to Austrian Dominic Thiem, a defeat he more than avenged during a routine semi-final victory at Roland Garros on Friday. Nadal is now 43-6 on the season and boasts a staggering 79-2 record at the clay-court Grand Slam.

Roland Garros

Champion

2017

Rafael Nadal

2016

Novak Djokovic

2015

Stan Wawrinka

2014

Rafael Nadal

2013

Rafael Nadal

2012

Rafael Nadal

2011

Rafael Nadal

2010

Rafael Nadal

2009

Roger Federer

2008

Rafael Nadal

2007

Rafael Nadal

2006

Rafael Nadal

2005

Rafael Nadal

Wawrinka reached the final, his second Roland Garros title match, in top form, having beaten World No. 1 Andy Murray in memorable five-set semi-final. The Swiss right-hander also had beaten Nadal the only other time they met during a Grand Slam final, the 2014 Australian Open title match.

But Wawrinka had no answer for Nadal in Paris. The Spaniard never let Wawrinka into the match, keeping the 2015 champion behind the baseline for much of the contest and hardly letting the powerful right-hander gain any momentum.

“He's playing the best he's ever played. That's for sure. But not only here. I think since the beginning of the year, you can see he's playing more aggressive, staying more close to the line,” Wawrinka said. “That's why he's winning so much again.”

The Spaniard blasted 27 winners compared to 12 unforced errors and claimed more than half of his return points. Wawrinka will receive 1,200 Emirates ATP Rankings points and will climb to No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The 32-year-old Wawrinka also will receive €1,060,000 in prize money.

Most wins in 2017

Rafael Nadal

43-6

Dominic Thiem

34-13

David Goffin

31-12

Pablo Carreno Busta

27-14

Alexander Zverev

27-10

Stan Wawrinka

26-9

Roland Garros">

Rafa At Roland Garros

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 2:31pm

Relaxed Roger Readies For Return In Stuttgart

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 2:23pm
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A relaxed and jovial Roger Federer sweated out a 90-minute practice session in 30 degree temperatures Sunday in preparation for his return to the ATP World Tour at the MercedesCup. Federer dusted off some cobwebs and shared some laughs with practice partner Tommy Haas and the several hundred fans who turned out on the eve of the grass-court season, which begins Monday in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Sporting a short new haircut, Federer, 35, could play Haas, 39, in the second round in Stuttgart. Typically, players prefer to practice with someone in the other half of the draw. The close friends played quickly during a number of practice games - often to the appreciative applause from fans - but didn’t rush their chats during several sit downs throughout the session.

Watch Federer's Practice With Haas

View The Stuttgart Draw

Federer made the semi-finals in Stuttgart on debut last year, falling in three sets to Dominic Thiem. He also reached grass-court semi-finals in Halle (l. A. Zverev) and Wimbledon (l. Raonic). Federer claimed his last grass-court title in 2015 in Halle (d. Seppi), where he is an eight-time champion.

Federer returns to the ATP World Tour after a two-month rest, which saw him miss the entire clay-court season. He last played at the Miami Open, where he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final to claim his third title of the year, following victories at the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open. He boasts a 19-1 record on the season, with his only defeat coming against World No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in the Dubai second round.

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Rafa Secures 'La Decima': How The Roland Garros Final Was Won

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 1:59pm

Rafael Nadal confirmed his date with destiny on Sunday at Roland Garros, defeating Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 for a historic 10th title. The Spaniard is the first player to lift a decade of trophies at a single Grand Slam event.

Nadal not only secured 'La Decima' on the terre battue, but also moved into solo second on the all-time major titles list with No. 15, behind only Roger Federer's 18 victories. He ascends to World No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday as well, moving into the Top 2 for the first time since 2014. Wawrinka was vying for his second Roland Garros title, having prevailed in 2015.

Fewest Games Dropped In Winning Major Title

Player Games Lost
Tournament
Bjorn Borg
32 1978 Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal 35
2017 Roland Garros
Bjorn Borg
38 1980 Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal
41 2008 Roland Garros

This was the first Roland Garros final between two players aged 30 & over since 1969, when 30-year-old Rod Laver defeated 34-year-old Ken Rosewall.

Here is how the final unfolded...

FIRST SET - Nadal 6-2
Having met on 18 previous occasions, Wawrinka is well aware of the formula needed to dethrone Nadal. His fearsome backhand will be put to the test against Nadal's penetrating forehand, as the Swiss looks to break down the Spaniard's preferred wing and take control of the court position battle.

Nadal has been dominant on serve throughout the fortnight, conceding just six breaks through six rounds. The trend would continue as proceedings got underway on a steamy Sunday afternoon at Stade Roland Garros. He would deny the first break point of the match at 1-1 and sent an early message to Wawrinka, earning four break chances of his own in the next game. The Swiss would hold after nine minutes, but could not stave off the Spaniard for long.

Painting the lines with varying angles and depth, Nadal snatched the first break of the match for 4-2, driving Wawrinka off the court with a wide forehand and forcing a netted backhand. The 32 year old would continue to leak errors off the ground as the set wore on and Nadal would break again to claim the opener 6-2 after 43 minutes.

SECOND SET - Nadal 6-3
The winner of the first set has won all 18 meetings between the Spaniard and the Swiss, and Nadal had designs on continuing the trend on Sunday. Refusing to concede an inch from the baseline, his forehand soared off the clay with aplomb and Wawrinka had no answer. Nadal strung together nine straight points to break to love and consolidated as the second set got underway.

The nine-time champion had been on court for five hours less than the 2015 winner during the fortnight and the disparity began to show as the match wore on. A fresher and more agile Nadal covered every corner of the court and refused to allow Wawrinka to discover his rhythm with consistent aggression.

With legends Roy Emerson and Gustavo Kuerten, as well as actress Nicole Kidman and King Juan Carlos of Spain in attendance, Nadal claimed the shot of the match with Wawrinka serving down 4-1. The Swiss flew outside the tramline to laser a flat cross-court backhand. Few would have a chance to get a racquet on the ball, but Nadal did that and more, responding with a whipping forehand winner down the line that brought the crowd to their feet and jaws to the floor.

When you're not even looking but you hit an amazing winner...

Un peu de magie ? C'est parti ! #RG17 pic.twitter.com/4bZuEVVTbS

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 11, 2017

Nadal would surge to a two-set lead, claiming the second 6-3 in 44 minutes.

THIRD SET - Nadal 6-1
A strong serving performance was critical for Wawrinka. In the final in Melbourne in 2014, he won 87 per cent of first serve points, while last year in their most recent meeting in Monte-Carlo, the script was flipped. The same was true on Sunday in Paris. Nadal claimed more than half of Wawrinka's service points through the first two sets and stayed in control as the third commenced under cloudy skies.

The Spaniard reeled off eight of the first nine points, breaking to open the set. Wawrinka did not play poorly, but Nadal was on another level. In 17 of their 18 previous encounters, the match finished in straight sets and he was poised to slam the door on Wawrinka in swift fashion.

Nadal escaped from a 0/30 deficit while serving up 2-1, providing the final burst of momentum to throw him across the finish line. Another break gave him a 4-1 lead and he would confirm his date with destiny after two hours and five minutes, as Wawrinka netted a backhand on his second match point. Nadal fired 27 winners, including four aces, while converting six of 13 break points in total.

Roland Garros">

Federer First Grass Practice Stuttgart 2017

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 5:30am
Roger Federer is back on the ATP World Tour after a two-month break. Watch his first grass-court practice with Tommy Haas, and hear from MercedesCup Tournament Director Edwin Weindorfer.

Federer Could Face Haas In Stuttgart Opener

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 6:23pm

The grass-court season has arrived on the ATP World Tour and a familiar face is atop the draw at the MercedesCup. Top seed Roger Federer leads the field in Stuttgart, his first tournament since going back-to-back at the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami two months ago.

Federer, who has a first-round bye, opens against either wild card and close friend Tommy Haas or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. A potential quarter-final clash against another German veteran, Mischa Zverev, could also await the Swiss. Third seed Tomas Berdych, who faces either Stephane Robert or Bernard Tomic in the second round, is another seeded threat in Federer's half of the draw.

If 35-year-old Federer faces 39-year-old Haas, it would be their 17th FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter and first since 2014, when the Swiss prevailed in straight sets in Indian Wells. They have met five times on grass, with Haas earning his lone victory in the 2012 Gerry Weber Open final.

View Stuttgart Draw

Federer reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart last year, where he succumbed to Dominic Thiem in three sets. Owner of the most grass-court titles in the Open Era (15), the eight-time Halle champ will look to add a ninth on German soil. Victory over Haas or Herbert would give him his 20th match win of the season and No. 1100 of his career.

Second seed Grigor Dimitrov leads the charge in the bottom half of the draw, opening aginst either Andrey Kuznetsov or Jerzy Janowicz. Last year's runner-up Philipp Kohlschreiber is unseeded, as is 2009 champion Jeremy Chardy, who triumphed when the tournament was held on clay.

Held at the Tennisclub Weissenhof E.V Parlerstrasse, this is the 40th edition of the MercedesCup and third on grass, having transitioned from clay in 2015.

Venus/Harrison Complete Dream Run At Roland Garros

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 6:00pm
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Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison scored their first Grand Slam titles on Saturday at Roland Garros, prevailing in a marathon battle of unseeded teams. They edged Santiago Gonzalez and Donald Young 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-3 in two hours and 14 minutes. 

“You always dream of winning a Grand Slam every time you're playing as a kid. You idolize people you see winning Grand Slams. You picture yourself in those moments, so it hasn't really sunk in yet. It feels a little surreal,” said Harrison. “It's even more special that we're able to do it alongside each other because he's like a brother. He's been a part of my family. He taught me how to drive. He was someone who was there for a lot of memorable moments of my life, including my wedding, being one of my groomsmen. To have him with me at the most special moment of my career is surreal.”

Harrison/Venus required a deciding set in all six of their victories to take the title. They are the first doubles team in Roland Garros history to win a deciding set in every match since the doubles event was shortened to best-of-three sets in all rounds in 1990.

The milestone moment came in only their fifth tournament together. Harrison/Venus also prevailed last month on the red clay of Estoril (d. Marrero/Robredo). Venus now has won seven ATP World Tour doubles title and Harrison has four, but all of them had previously come at the 250-level.

Venus had never reached the last eight at a major prior to this fortnight and hadn't won a set in three previous appearances at this event. The 29-year-old Kiwi is only the fifth New Zealander to win a Grand Slam title and the first man to do so since Onny Parun took the doubles title here (w/Crealy) in 1974.

“I had been knocking on the door and in the third round of a few majors. You never know going into a partnership how well it's going to work out. You're always hoping for the best,” said Venus. “What helped us a lot is knowing each other so well. It’s great be able to share this with someone so close.”

Harrison hadn't reached a Grand Slam semi-final before his run with Venus. The 25-year-old American has been excelling throughout 2017. He won his first ATP World Tour singles title this February in Memphis and currently sits at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 42.

Despite the loss, Gonzalez/Young also enjoyed a breakthrough week by reaching their first Grand Slam final. Gonzalez is the first Mexican to contest a Grand Slam final since Leonardo Lavalle at Wimbledon in 1991. Young is only the fourth African-American male to compete in a Grand Slam final, joining Arthur Ashe, MaliVai Washington and Bryan Shelton.

Roland Garros">

Both teams traded service holds throughout the opening set despite several break point opportunities, with Gonzalez rallying from 0/40 at 2-3 and Venus doing the same at 5-5. Little separated the pairs during the ensuing tie-break, but a big forehand from Venus at 5/5 brought up set point. The American-Kiwi duo made good on their first chance and grabbed the early advantage.

The second set also featured no breaks of serve en route to another tie-break. A forehand from the New Zealander put Harrison/Venus up 3/1, but Gonzalez/Young responded by going on a five-point run. A volley sent long by Venus at 6/4 brought the match to a deciding set.

After 29 consecutive service holds, it was Gonzalez who blinked first in the final set and gave away the first break of the match at 2-3 with a double fault. Gonzalez/Young responded immediately by breaking Venus in the next game, but a double fault from Young put Harrison/Venus up 5-3. Serving for the biggest win of his career, Harrison made good on their second championship point after a forehand long from Gonzalez wrapped up the contes.

Gear Guide: Different Shoes For Different Surfaces

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 4:35pm

With the European clay season concluding on Sunday at Roland Garros, and ATP World Tour tournaments kicking off on Monday in Stuttgart and 's-Hertogenbosch, it’s officially grass-court season!

Many people wonder if a hard-court shoe will be suitable on a clay court or even a grass court. While you can get away with it, there is a reason why there are specific shoes for specific surfaces. Each surface plays a little differently and your game and footwork can change depending on what surface you are playing on. Let’s take a look at what the distinctions are between these three types of shoes.

Grass-Court Shoes

Despite grass-court tournaments only lasting for a few weeks on the ATP World Tour tour, some players are fortunate to enjoy grass tennis all year long. Like clay, grass is much softer on your body and joints. While there are not a ton of grass-court shoe options to choose from, this surface tends to play fast and you will definitely want the correct shoes on court.

Grass court shoes have outsoles which feature "nubs" or "pimples" that are reminiscent of cleat-like-shoes. Outsoles with nubs provide great grip for players on what can often be slippery grass. Despite the aggressive tread, the outsole shouldn't do any damage to the court and will help players feel comfortable moving quickly on this fast surface. Unlike hard-court shoes, these cannot be used on other surfaces.

Clay-Court Shoes

Clay courts are typically the slowest of the three surfaces and while you may not be able to master the movement right away, finding the right shoe should be simple!

You will want a shoe with the right levels of traction to help you move gracefully on the court, as well as lateral support to keep you supported when sliding into shots. What mainly sets all these shoes apart is the outsole. The outsole of a clay court shoe will typically feature a full herringbone (zig zag) tread pattern, which offers great grip on this slippery surface. This pattern won't allow the clay to lodge to the outsole as much as the tighter hard court tread designs, so you can get more traction when you try to start, stop or change directions. If the clay does build up, a couple of taps to the side of your shoe from your racquet should knock all the clay loose from the outsole. The herringbone design also makes sliding from side to side more predictable. You can perfectly glide into a shot and recover, but also have the traction needed for moving forward and backward.

Clay-court specific shoes often have a tighter knit upper, which will come in handy if you plan on playing on clay on a regular basis. This not only aids in stability, but helps keep the clay from entering your shoes. These shoes won't come with an outsole guarantee as the clay is usually much gentler on your outsoles. However, sometimes the shoes will offer added durability on high wear areas where your feet might drag.

Hard-Court Shoes

The most popular and common tennis court surface is a hard court. This court is also the most demanding when it comes to outsole durability. Depending on where you play, you may encounter a gritty, slower hard court or possibly a slick, more slippery, quick court. Either way, the soles of hard-court shoes are usually built to handle the demands of this surface.

Most often, they feature a modified herringbone pattern designed to give you the perfect blend of grip and give on the court. Hard-court shoes will often feature ample cushioning and a midsole that will help transfer energy into every step you take, as well as absorb shock from the harder surface. They usually feature a tough upper that will aid in support and durability. The toe area is often built up and protected for you toe draggers out there, as a gritty hard court can do some damage to your shoes.

When choosing a hard court shoe, there are usually two types you can choose from. The first is a durable, stable option that comes with a six-month outsole warranty. This means if you wear out that outsole in under six months, the manufacturer will send you another pair. The second option is a speed-oriented shoe. These are often lighter in weight and have been made to offer a faster feel. The outsole usually has a little less grab, but more give, and they have a tendency to wear out faster. Hard-court shoes are the most versatile shoes and, while not ideal, they can be used on clay or grass courts.

To find the perfect pair of shoes for the surface you play on and for more information, head to Tennis Warehouse.

Federer Reflects On Weekend With Bill Gates

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 4:34pm

Ahead of his return to the ATP World Tour next week in Stuttgart, Roger Federer recently spent time with Bill Gates in the Microsoft co-founder’s hometown of Seattle. ESPN The Magazine chronicled their enlightening and entertaining weekend together for the World Fame 100 issue, in which Federer came in 4th on the list. Below is an excerpt of the feature.

[Roger Federer] is in Seattle because of Bill Gates. A Federer superfan and dedicated rec-level player, Gates watched his favorite player at Indian Wells. They bonded there over tennis and philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent billions on improving living standards in Africa. Federer's foundation also focuses on Africa, especially education for children. They decided to organize an exhibition at the KeyArena in Seattle -- Federer vs. John Isner, the tall, big-serving American -- as part of a fundraiser for Federer's charity.

A couple of days before the exhibition, Federer, wife Mirka and a few others from his team visited Gates' 66,000-square-foot compound on the shores of Lake Washington, called Xanadu 2.0. Before courses of halibut and steak, they spoke about physics and Leonardo da Vinci and his audacious, open-minded genius. Growing up, Federer wasn't focused on being a student, he says. He stopped going to school at age 16 to play tennis full time. Over the years, he's tried to soak up knowledge where he can. The night at Gates' estate was a career high point. "It was so inspiring," he says. "It was surreal."

Gates invited his guests into his library. He and Federer paid special attention to a notebook in a glass case -- the Codex Leicester, filled with Leonardo's drawings, theories and thoughts. Gates paid $30.8 million for it in 1994.

Federer stared in amazement. "He tells you that Da Vinci wrote upside down and from right to left -- Leonardo da Vinci! -- and he was not only great at one thing but he was also great at other things, and you realize how broad somebody's mind can be. Bill Gates is one of those people too. You can feel it. He makes you -- not because he wants to in any way, because he's super humble -- but he just makes you feel so small, in the sense that I know so little. Everything he says just seems really important, and you try to absorb it. I tried really to put my antennas up."

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Over the course of a long weekend, Federer and Gates had two dinners and a lunch together. They practiced tennis in front of an exclusive audience of deep-pocket donors, and Federer presented Gates with a new racket similar to his own, a matte-black Wilson RF97. It was inscribed on the throat with Gates' profile and renamed the BG97.

Gates was struck by Federer's curiosity, and, of course, by his grace. "You know, tennis, it's sort of physics," he says. "But it's also artistic, particularly the way Roger appears to move so effortlessly." Practicing with Federer, noticing his attention to detail, his meticulous approach, Gates was reminded of a software engineer's painstaking efforts to make computer programs easy to use. "You're making impossible things actually look fairly easy because you've done so much behind the scenes to understand it," he says.

The ESPN World Fame issue is on newsstands until June 16. Read the full Federer story here.

Roland Garros Final Preview: Stan vs. Rafa

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 3:18pm

Another gripping fortnight on the terre battue of Roland Garros is nearly in the books, with two former titlists set to square off for the Coupe des Mousquetaires. There have been no shortage of storylines throughout the first 14 days of the tournament and the same can be said for Sunday's championship between third seed Stan Wawrinka and fourth seed Rafael Nadal.

Nadal has been careening towards a date with destiny, marching into a 10th final in the French capital without dropping a set. As ruthless as the Spaniard had been in streaking to the titles in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, he has been arguably even more impressive at Roland Garros, relinquishing just 29 games - an average of just five games lost in six matches. It is the second-fewest number of games dropped in reaching a Grand Slam final in the Open Era, behind only Bjorn Borg's run to the 1978 Roland Garros final.

Nadal secured his place in his 22nd major final (14-7 record) with a convincing 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 victory over an in-form Dominic Thiem in Friday's semi-finals. Now on the precipice of a historic, extraordinary achievement, the King of Clay is just one win from etching his name in the Grand Slam history books. He is bidding to not only become the first player in the Open Era to lift 10 trophies at a single tournament, but also become the oldest in history to claim his 15th major title. The Manacor native would pass Pete Sampras for solo second on the all-time list.

With his quest to complete 'La Decima' hanging in the balance, Nadal will face a formidable and familiar opponent in Sunday's final. Two of the game's deadliest, most feared weapons will be on display as Nadal's heavy topspin forehand clashes with Wawrinka's majestic, mammoth backhand. Both competitors will look to generate great depth on their preferred wings, taking time away from their opponent and opening the court for finishing blows. Firepower meets firepower on Court Philippe Chatrier, with No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on the line.

Fewest Games Dropped In Winning Major Title

Player Games Lost
Tournament
Bjorn Borg
32 1978 Roland Garros
Bjorn Borg
38 1980 Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal
41 2008 Roland Garros
**Nadal has dropped 29 games entering the final**

"For me, being in the final is always a very positive result," said Nadal. "Now remains one match against a very tough opponent, so he will be full of confidence for Sunday. And he's a very dangerous player because he can hit the ball very hard. I need to play aggressive, I need to play long, I need to try to not let him play from easy positions. If not, I'm going to be in big trouble.

"It's true that when he hits hard, he hits really hard. Stopping him can be difficult... I will have to do everything I can to keep him from playing aggressively. If I can play long balls, if I can hit hard, if I can do that, I think I will be able to control him. I know he's dangerous when he plays aggressively, so I need to limit his possibilities."

Nadal leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head 15-3, but Wawrinka has history on his side as well. The 2015 champion will look to extend his perfect mark in Grand Slam finals, entering his second Roland Garros title match with a 3-0 record.

"To play Rafa on clay in the final of the French Open is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis," said Wawrinka. "He's the best player ever on clay. He's going for his 10th Roland Garros, so it's something really impressive, something tough."

All-Time Grand Slam Titles List

Player Titles Roger Federer
18 Rafael Nadal
14 Pete Sampras
14 Novak Djokovic
12
Roy Emerson
12 Bjorn Borg
11 Rod Laver
11

One of the biggest clutch performers in today's game, the Swiss is also no stranger to denying dates with destiny. In the 2014 Australian Open final, he stopped Nadal's quest to become the first player in the Open Era to win all four majors twice. One year later, he momentarily halted Novak Djokovic's bid to complete the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros with a near-flawless performance in the final.

The 32-year-old Swiss is looking to write his name in the history books as well, seeking to join elite company as just the third player to win three or more Grand Slam titles after turning 30. Only Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall have done so. A win would also secure him a career-high  No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, becoming the oldest to make his Top 2 debut in more than 40 years.

Wawrinka enters the final after surviving a grueling five-set battle against top seed Andy Murray on Friday. He notched his fourth win over a World No. 1 after nearly five hours, rallying from two-sets-to-one down to extend his win streak to 10 straight. The champion on home soil in Geneva two weeks ago, the Lausanne native is vying for his fifth straight win in a clay-court final.

Most Grand Slam Titles At 30 & Over (Open Era)

Player Titles Won At 30 & Over
Years
Rod Laver
4 1969
Ken Rosewall
4 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972
Stan Wawrinka
2
2015, 2016
Roger Federer
2
2012, 2017
Andre Agassi
2 2001, 2003
Jimmy Connors
2 1982, 1983

"It's going to be really difficult," Wawrinka added. "But again, in the end of the day, it's the final. The pressure is on both players. No one goes on the court thinking he has no pressure. We both want to win the title and we are both going to give it our all on the court.

"He's for sure going to be the favourite with what he's done in the past, but also this season already he's playing so well. So I will have for sure to play my best tennis. But again, I did that in the past, so we will see what's going to happen on Sunday."

Roland Garros">

Thiem: 'Good Clay Season, Bad Ending'

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 10:01pm

What was supposed to be a blockbuster semi-final battle on Friday at Roland Garros ended up being a disappointing blow for Dominic Thiem, but the loss doesn’t erase his accomplishments on clay this season.

The Austrian found himself overpowered against Nadal and suffered a straight-sets defeat. But while Thiem was upset by a third loss to the Spaniard this season, he was more disappointed with his performance. The sixth seed hit 34 unforced errors and faded out in the final set, only winning nine points as Nadal cruised to victory.

“I think he played a good match today. I was not on top of my game and that was the result everybody saw,” said Thiem. “It's nice to be in the semis again, but now I'm really disappointed because I just couldn't play the way I wanted to. I don't know why yet, so I have to find some reasons. It was a good clay-court season, but a very bad ending for me.”

Despite the loss, there are still plenty of positives for Thiem to take from his Roland Garros run. He repeated his semi-final run from last year at this event, but did so this time without losing a set. Thiem also picked up his first victory in six attempts against Novak Djokovic in their quarter-final match.

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The progress in Paris has extended to his results throughout 2017. He’s already scored wins this year over every player currently ranked in the Top 4 of the Emirates ATP Rankings and has been exceptional on clay. The 23 year old prevailed this February in Rio de Janeiro (d. Carreno Busta) for his first ATP World Tour 500 title, reached the final at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Mutua Madrid Open (both l. to Nadal) and handed Nadal his only loss on clay this year in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finals.

Thiem will remain in the Top 4 of the Emirates ATP Race to London and is well on track to qualify for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals for the second straight year. Given his victories over all of the world’s best players over the past 12 months, his huge game continues to have fans touting him as a future World No. 1.

Next up for the Austrian is the grass-court season. Having already competed in 14 tournaments this year, Thiem will extend his ironman status with more ATP World Tour events in Halle and Antalya before heading over to Wimbledon. It remains the only Grand Slam he hasn’t reached the second week of, but Thiem is confident he can achieve that milestone and more this year.

“It's always nice to play on grass. It's not a long period of the season, so it’s always special,” said Thiem. “It’s completely different than clay because I think you can lose to far more opponents if they have a good day or a big serving day. It’s going to be completely different than the last few weeks.”

Roland Garros">

Nadal Downplays La Decima At Roland Garros

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 8:43pm

Rafael Nadal is one victory away from a historic 10th Roland Garros title, but he’s more focused on Sunday’s championship battle against Stan Wawrinka than any of the statistics or implications accompanying it.

The Spaniard put in a flawless performance on Friday, dropping just seven games against Dominic Thiem in their semi-final to set up the match against Wawrinka. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 15-3 and has won five of their six meetings on clay.

However, the Swiss star’s victories against Nadal have come in some of their most important matches. Nadal lost his most recent Grand Slam match against Wawrinka in the 2014 Australian Open final, but the nine-time Roland Garros champion said it won’t be on his mind when they face off again.

“Revenge is not part of my vocabulary. I don't think it would be the right thing to see this match as revenge. In my mind, each match is different and important,” said Nadal. ”He played very well in that Australian Open. If I hadn't been injured, I don't know what the outcome would have been. But he had been playing very well before that already. He has demonstrated that during important matches, he’s always up for the challenge.

“Stan won the last event in Geneva and now he's in the final here. He’s on a good run, so it's the toughest opponent possible,” he added. “He will be full of confidence for Sunday. I need to play aggressively and not let him play from easy positions or I’m going to be in big trouble.”

Wawrinka Pleased With Mentally Tough Battle

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 8:29pm

The backhand was beautiful, as always. But what impressed Stan Wawrinka the most about his 6-7(6), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 Roland Garros semi-final victory on Friday against Andy Murray was his mental toughness and the fight he showed against the top seed.

Wawrinka fell behind two sets to one after Murray answered the Swiss star's impressive second set by taking the third set. But Wawrinka, who had lost to Murray during the 2016 Roland Garros semi-finals, stayed in the match and squeaked out the fourth set tie-break. Wawrinka then ran away with the fifth set to reach his second Roland Garros title match.

Four hours. Five sets. One victor.

How @stanwawrinka got revenge on Murray.#RG17 pic.twitter.com/yXhXQv73mn

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 9, 2017

“I think it was mentally a tough battle today, especially in five sets against Andy. It was a little bit windy, so it's not always easy to play your best tennis. But I'm happy with what I did on the court, the way I was fighting, even if I was down. The way I was trying to keep my line, trying to keep being aggressive, keep going even if I lost a lot of points by some incredible defence from him,” Wawrinka said.

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“For sure it wasn't easy to be two sets to one down. When you play a player like Andy Murray, you know that you can dominate the games, but he's still going to be there. He's still going to do incredible defence, play the right tennis in the right moment. That's why he's No. 1 in the world. So when you enter in a Grand Slam against him, you have to accept that. You need to keep trying to focus on what you do.”

In a way, Wawrinka did what he's done all fortnight-long in Roland Garros – shut down outside distractions and focus only on the point ahead of him. The Swiss star said it's as if he becomes a different player at times during big matches or at big tournaments.

“That is why I have been able to win Grand Slam tournaments and other tournaments and play great matches when I had to. Mentally, when I arrive on a big tournament or in a big match, it's like closing, switching off everything in my body except my brain, which I put in winning mode,” Wawrinka said. “Of course, I can lose, but I think I'm extremely confident about what I do, about how I feel, about all the hard work I have accomplished over the past days, weeks, months, years. I know that mentally when I'm there, it's difficult to beat me.”

The 32 year old is a perfect 3-0 in Grand Slam finals. Wawrinka beat Rafael Nadal during the 2014 Australian Open final, and the right-hander beat Novak Djokovic for the 2015 Roland Garros title and the 2016 US Open crown.

Wawrinka will put his perfection on the line against Nadal's Roland Garros perfection when they meet for the 2017 Roland Garros crown. Nadal is 9-0 in Roland Garros finals and is trying to become the first man or woman in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam 10 times.

“I think to play Rafa on clay [at Roland Garros] in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis. He's the best player ever on clay. He's going for his 10th Roland Garros, so it's something really impressive, something tough. It's for sure going to be really difficult. But again, at the end of the day, it's the final. The pressure is on both players. No one goes on the court thinking he has no pressure. We both want to win the title, and we both are going to give it all on the court," Wawrinka said. “He's for sure going to be the favourite with what he's done in the past... We will see what's going to happen on Sunday.”

Roland Garros">

Nadal Reaches 10th Roland Garros Final

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 6:42pm

Rafael Nadal's historic clay-court season will reach its apex on Sunday as the Spaniard will attempt to win his record 10th Roland Garros title and his third “La Décima” of the season.

Nadal advanced to his 10th Roland Garros final on Friday by avenging his lone clay-court loss of the season, dismissing Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in the semi-final.

On Sunday, Nadal will meet another former Roland Garros champion in third seed and 2015 titlist Stan Wawrinka, who prevailed past top seed Andy Murray 6-7(8), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 in four hours and 34 minutes.

Something will have to give during what should be a battle of a final. Wawrinka has never lost in a Grand Slam title match, having won all three of his earlier finals, including the 2015 Roland Garros title match against Novak Djokovic and the 2014 Australian Open final against Nadal.

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But Nadal has never fallen in a Roland Garros final. The left-hander is a perfect 9-0. He also leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 15-3 and is 5-1 against Wawrinka on clay.

The 30-year-old Mallorca native has looked nearly unbeatable this fortnight as well. Through six matches, Nadal has yet to drop a set and has lost only 29 games – just two games off the Open Era record for fewest games dropped into a Grand Slam final.

Fewest games dropped in reaching a Grand Slam final*

Bjorn Borg

27

1978 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal

29

2017 Roland Garros

Bjorn Borg

31

1980 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal

35

2012 Roland Garros

(*In the current 128-draw format where all-matches played were best-of- 5-sets)

The Spaniard also should be fresh. Nadal has spent only about 10 hours on court. Wawrinka, meanwhile, has spent more than 15 hours on the red dirt.

No man or woman has won 10 titles at a Grand Slam in the Open Era, since April 1968. Nadal won Roland Garros crowns in 2005-08 and '10-14, and another Roland Garros title would give him a trio of “La Décimas” this season.

The Spaniard captured his 10th title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. He also won his fifth Mutua Madrid Open crown on clay.

Thiem kept Nadal from winning the only other clay-court tournament the Spaniard contested, knocking out Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. But Thiem, who said he played one of his best matches that day, couldn't replicate his top level as Nadal rolled throughout their seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

The Spaniard won the opening point with a backhand winner and pumped his fist after, showing how much a strong start meant to the nine-time Roland Garros champion. The two exchanged breaks until Nadal held for a 2-1 lead.