Although he dominated the US Open, he decided not to play in New York this year and stayed at home in Majorca, Spain, where he trained at the academy named after him. He believed the trip to the United States was a risk to wear him to the brief clay-court season, with the French Open coming two weeks after the men’s US Open final.
So far, so smart, but he’s on the new ground here. He has never won the French Open without winning a clay-court match in the lead, and no one has won the French Open in October. His forehand was not elevated in cold conditions. His service did not travel fast: down, on average, four miles per hour from 2019 onwards.
But despite all of the above, he still hasn’t dropped a single set in the tournament.
After battling through Friday’s 14-minute opening game to run the service, he was full of double-digit rallies and all the court chatter through the first set of grinding.
He made changes after losing to Swartzman in Rome: he moved closer to first service revenue and much closer to second service revenue. This gave them a break after the break, and despite Swartzman trying the drop shots they were not consistently successful.
The game tightened in the third set, however, with Nadal failing to serve twice after the break. At 5-5, he served after saving three break points, saving the last players by serving his first time in the tournament and making a volley.
The best is in the details, and Nadal is, in contrast to the famous figure, a great tactician and a great athlete, ball striker and rival.
He also won the third set tiebreaker, now only one win from reigning at Roland Cross.
It’s not like the others.