Rafael Nadal continues to reign supreme in Paris and his triumph this year could well be his best yet. The loss of just one set in the 16 days was a strong message to the rest of the tour that he is not going to step aside and let Novak Djokovic be the undisputed king of tennis. Rafa is now up to seven wins on the famous orange courts of Roland Garros and I would not rule out him blowing the history books away by making it into double figures. Imagine that, winning the same Slam ten times in an era which includes Roger Federer and Djokovic. A record of 53 wins to one defeat in the French Open shows that he is virtually untouchable on the clay. Robin Soderling must still pinch himself when remembering his Quarter-Final defeat of the Spaniard in 2009. Djokovic will come back for more next year and will still strongly fancy his chances of winning slams during the rest of the summer but for now Rafa remains the undisputed King of Porte d’Auteuil.
What was the real shame about this triumph was that it was not witnessed by a full stadium. Time and time again, some of the best players to have ever played our sport are being failed by the powers that be. Roland Garros’ decision to finally put a roof on Court Philippe Chatrier is a decade too late. Furthermore, a roof was not needed to avoid the continuation of this tournament into a working Monday. What was needed was for the organisers not to dance to the tune of US television companies. Who are more important to this sport; US television or the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic who continue to carry the sport to new heights? The latter could certainly be excused for feeling he had Rafa on the ropes on Sunday evening as the drizzle began to fall. A 1pm start would have put paid to any argument. Everybody knew that the late afternoon weather forecast was awful, but still the start was delayed until 3pm. Heaven forbid we play a Grand Slam final in good conditions whilst the American audiences are still sleeping. Why don’t we go the full hog and play all Slams in the States, at least that way we can guarantee that all majors finish on schedule. After all, it’s not like the US Open has had no problems with their scheduling in the recent past; three Monday finals in the last four years. There is something more than a little embarrassing how Wimbledon manages to complete its tournament on time despite a later daily start time than Roland Garros and New York, as well as it having a rest day thrown in for good measure.
I am not done with criticising Roland Garros just yet. The decision whether or not to have a “People’s Monday” must be a difficult one to take at such short notice. But to not even give people the option to hand in their tickets for resale meant that the stadium was nowhere near full for what many commentators were describing as “the most anticipated final in the Open era”. Is this what the Top 2 in their sport deserve? Their Wimbledon preparations delayed by a day to play out a second day of a Final that should have finished 20 hours previously, but also to have to do it in front of a half-full stadium. Shame on you Roland Garros and shame on you ATP. Let’s start looking after your prized assets a hell of a lot more because we will all miss this era when they are gone. And maybe the next era will be so dull in comparison that the US television companies will not be interested enough to even bother dictating the schedule.