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Rafael Nadal Roland Garros 2018 Sport Tennis

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5 things we learned at Roland Garros Day 15 - Inspirational Nadal wins 11th French Open

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Rafael Nadal with the cup after his 11th Roland Garros win RFI/Pierre René-Worms

Everybody loves a final, not everyone stays for the whole match, the sun shone on Nadal, Thiem put up a good fight but Nadal remained humble, though inspirational. That's what we learned at the final day of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros.


  • The crowd love a final

When Rafael Nadal got some treatment at 2-1 up in the third set, the 15,000-odd people in the stadium decided to make the most of it by doing a Mexican wave. La hola – as the locals call it – was a bit more extravagant than usual. That’s because the stadium was full.

  • The organisers love a full stadium

The bigwigs at the French Tennis Federation say they have noted that the empty showcourts aren’t good for the image of the tournament. They say they are working on what to do. But they acknowledge that you can’t force people to watch six or seven hours of tennis. Really? Why not? So the executives say they’re dreaming up a plan to stop the empty seats. It’s been a few years now that the review has been highlighting this particular ill at the French Open. People who have paid money obviously have the right not to watch a match. Perhaps the federation could develop smart seats which tell if someone has been sitting in them or not. And then it could start fining them if they haven’t put in enough hours. This could be the future never mind the brouhaha about needing a roof. There’s hardly ever anyone in the stadium.

Nadal and Theim on court RFI/Pierre René-Worms

  • ‘pon my soul …the Faustian pact is true

On day 12 we revealed that the dancer that goes by the name of Rafael Nadal had been jigging to the rain and sun gods so that he could extricate himself out of the hole that was starting to gape during his quarter-final match against the 11th seed Diego Schwartzman. The gods duly obliged. Rain came to force delays and the sun came the following day which are considered the best conditions for Nadal’s vicious topspin. Rain was forecast to interrupt the men’s final on day 15 at around 5.00pm. It did not arrive. Instead a belt of sunshine blazed down on a full – yes full, full, full, centre court. The sun fair rained down and it helped power Nadal’s game a tiny bit more. Dominic Thiem, doughty though he was, was battered. The prizes were dished out, the crowd gave the combatants their love and then the heavens opened. The review does not consider this strange.

  • Different year, same result

Back in 2005, a young Dominic Thiem watched a teenage Rafael Nadal win his first French Open at the expense of Mariano Puerta. Imagine that 13 years later the boy Thiem was in front of Nadal and trying to stop him winning title number 11. “Of course it's really a great thing that I made my way and that I was competing in a final against him,” said Thiem. “It's a really great thing, honestly, but still I'm disappointed. It was a final. I really wanted to win. I gave everything I had and I'm the loser of today.” No Dominic, you gave Nadal a real battle. We’ve seen him destroy a certain Roger Federer on centre court. Several times.

  • Seventeen but not counting

With his 11th French Open, Rafael Nadal now has 17 Grand Slam trophies. Roger Federer has 20 and therefore is the alpha male at the moment. But Nadal says he’s never been the covetous type and is just thankful for what he’s got. And so he should after his massive attack on the record books. No other man has won one Grand Slam tournament 11 times. “I can’t be always thinking of more,” said Nadal shortly after notching up Grand Slam number 17. “Of course, I have ambition and passion for what I do. But you cannot always be frustrated if somebody has more money than you or a bigger house than you or more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling. You have to do your way.” And Rafa at the end of 15 days of competition, the review salutes your attitude and your enduring humility. Your way is inspirational. It ain’t bad.