Sunday, May 31, 2009

Down Goes Rafa

One of the great runs in the history of sports came to an end today when Rafael Nadal lost in the fourth round of the French Open.

I knew that Nadal -- 22 years old, until Wednesday -- had won four straight French Open titles (including his first attempt, which means he had never lost there), and that he's arguably already the greatest clay-court player of all time, but I hadn't realized this: Coming into this fourth-round match, he had lost just two of his last 53 sets at Roland Garros. That's insane.

Former great Mats Wilander joked that the remaining players would all be "having a beer tonight." Of those remaining, the on-the-rise Andy Murray and the American Andy Roddick (winner of one Grand Slam, who may have one three or four more if his career didn't coincide with Roger Federer's) are interesting, but Federer will have the brightest spotlight. He needs the French to complete a career Grand Slam, and to solidify his argument as the greatest player of all time. (Either Nadal or Federer has won 15 of the past 16 Grand Slam tournaments.)

Nadal was lighthearted enough after his defeat to crack wise when asked about preparing for Wimbledon, which starts in three weeks:
"Right now, my preparation is for the swimming pool of my house," Nadal said, smiling at his own joke. "Yeah, give me three more days to think about preparation for Wimbledon."


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