By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) - Claycourt king Rafa Nadal regained his Roland Garros throne after two years in exile with a brutal 6-2 6-3 6-1 mauling of Swiss Stan Wawrinka to complete ‘La Decima’ on Sunday.
Rewinding the clock to the days when he was untouchable on the crushed brick dust, the 31-year-old turned 2015 champion Wawrinka into a human punchbag, winning in just over two hours.
This title, an unprecedented 10th at a single grand slam in the professional era, was arguably the most impressive of his 15 though as it arrived three injury-plagued years after the last one, without dropping a set and conceding only 35 games in seven matches.
Only Bjorn Borg, who conceded 32 on his way to the 1978 title, has been a more ruthless champion.
Having beaten world number one Andy Murray with a majestic display of power in the semi-final, third seed Wawrinka arrived full of confidence as, at 32, he tried to become the oldest French Open winner since Andres Gimeno in 1972.
But the barrel-chested ‘Stanimal’ was powerless as Nadal turned the final into an exhibition of his clayclourt supremacy ― taking his French Open record to an eye-watering 79-2.
As a weary Wawrinka sliced a volley into the net on match point Nadal collapsed on his back on the baseline.
“I’m a little emotional,” Nadal said before getting to clamp his jaws on La Coupe des Mousquetaires. “The nerves and adrenaline I feel on this court is impossible to compare.”
Straw hats and fans were de rigueur for an expectant Court Philippe Chatrier as the final began with temperatures hovering around the 30 degrees Celcius mark ― perfect conditions for Nadal’s trademark monstrous topspin game.
Wawrinka, who spent nearly five hours more on court than Nadal to reach the final, looked tentative and heavy-legged although he did have a glimmer in the third game when Nadal was forced to save a break point.
Nadal failed to convert any of the four break points he had in the following game, but drew first blood the next time an opportunity arose to take a 4-2 lead.
Then he switched on the afterburners. A matter of minutes later Wawrinka wafted a forehand long to hand Nadal a second break of serve and the opening set.
Wawrinka was flat, striking not a single winner off his glorious single-handed backhand in the first set, and with less than an hour on the clock his task already looked forlorn.
Nadal was given a time violation warning at the start of the second, but Wawrinka could not halt his charge as the Spaniard bounded into a 3-0 lead in the second having won seven games in a row.
With the crowd attempting to lift Wawrinka he stopped the rot to hold, firing himself up with a roar of “C’mon”.
Nadal was relentless though, pinning Wawrinka back behind the baseline. Even when he was stretched the response was emphatic, one astonishing forehand, whipped from close to the front row of seats to land in the corner, drawing gasps from the crowd and applause from Wawrinka.
Social media lit up at that point with women’s semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky tweeting “OMG!”
Wawrinka could not lay a glove on Nadal and his frustration boiled over as the Spaniard closed in on a two-set lead, destroying his racket frame after a missed forehand.
After Nadal sealed the second set both players left the court while court staff watered down the red dust.
Nothing could extinguish Nadal’s fire though and he surged two breaks ahead in the third set despite the best efforts of Wawrinka to try and extend the contest.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)