French Open 2017: Former champions Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka set for tryst with destiny in final

Only for the second time in the last 30 years, two former champions will meet in the final of the French Open men’s competition. Only for the first time in the Open Era, one man will play his 10th final at Roland Garros. Rafael Nadal is the favourite to accomplish La Decima – his 10th French Open title – but by no means is his opponent Stan ‘The Man’ Wawrinka a pushover. Having won the French Open title before in 2015 and boasting a perfect 3-0 record in Grand Slam finals, Wawrinka knows what it takes to beat Nadal in a Slam final, having beaten him previously in Australia in 2014, albeit not on clay.

File image of Stanislas Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal. AFP

File image of Stanislas Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal. AFP

Form guide
Nadal is clearly the man to beat this year. Having dominated the clay season with three titles (including two Masters 1000 titles), Nadal made small work of Dominic Thiem in the semi-final on Friday, the only man to beat him on clay this season. Wawrinka, on the other hand, had to pull off a come-from-behind victory against Andy Murray, the World No 1 and last year’s runner-up at Roland Garros. Nadal has dropped only 29 games and is yet to drop a set at the event in his run-up to the final. Wawrinka dropped two sets in the semi-final against Murray and has dropped a total of 78 games so far. Also, Wawrinka has spent 15 hours and 19 minutes on the court compared to Nadal’s outing of 9 hours and 59 minutes. The Spaniard comes into this tournament leading this year’s men’s singles race with 4,915 points, and Wawrinka sits in 5th position with 1,940 points.

What’s at stake
The world knows what’s at stake here for Nadal. The Spanish ace could become the first man ever to lift the same Grand Slam winner’s trophy for the tenth time. He currently has a perfect nine-nothing record in French Open finals and looks set to add another one to his cabinet. On the other hand, Wawrinka will try and become the first man, not named Rafael Nadal, to win the French Open multiple times since Gustavo Kuerten won the French Open in 2000 and 2001 (following his first title in 1997). The winner of the Slam will also rise to No 2 in ATP single’s rankings.

While the head-to-head between the pair heavily favours Nadal at 15-3, the pair is tied at 3-3 since the beginning of 2014. Wawrinka conquered Nadal in their only meeting in a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in 2014. Nadal leads the head-to-head 5-1 on clay though and won the pair’s last meeting on the surface in 2016 at the Monte Carlo Masters 1000.

Key battle
Wawrinka’s complete repertoire was on display against Murray in the semi-final on Friday, especially in the 4th and 5th sets. Wawrinka stacked up 87 winners against 77 unforced errors in his clash with Murray. Wawrinka hit stinging winner after winner and spewed venom from both his forehand and backhand. Elsewhere, Nadal restricted the big hitting Thiem to just 21 winners against 34 unforced errors. Nadal will try and enforce the same issue against Wawrinka while the Swiss will try to ensure he continues rolling with his winners to unforced errors ratio.

Will Nadal capture his 10th French Open or will Wawrinka be able to do what five others before him have failed to do on nine separate occasions, that is, beat Nadal in the French Open final?

My prediction: Nadal in 4 sets!

Updated Date: Jun 11, 2017 15:28 PM

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