Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge has praised Rafael Nadal’s French Open record win as one of the greatest sporting feats of all time.
On Monday, Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim his 13th Roland Garros title in 15 years, now levelling with Roger Federer’s 20 grand slam titles the most ever by a male.
The victory itself was impressive but the way Nadal demolished the world No.1 was breathtaking.
Nadal took the first set 6-0. Only the fourth time Djokovic has not won a game in the first set at a grand slam tournament.
The cooler conditions, combined with a change to slower, heavier balls, were expected to make life tougher for Nadal – yet it didn’t phase him.
Nadal did not drop a set throughout the entire tournament.
“I think it adds more to the legend, because we know that in May with a quicker ball and a bouncy court and windy conditions, it suits his game, he loves it,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports.
“But this threw up a whole heap of new obstacles, and he dealt with them.
“He beat the world No.1 in one of the most convincing matches that they’ve played.
“To be able to go to a tournament and win it 13 times, be fit, healthy and mentally able to cope with the stresses of being one of the top players, I don’t think there’s any sporting feat that I can think of that has had that continuity, longevity and dominance.”
“Everything pointed to Novak winning this year,” Woodbridge added.
“From the beginning of the tournament, the formline, the change of ball, it all pointed to it being there for Novak, but Rafa again had this attitude to accept the challenges and do what he had to do.
“What Nadal has done so well through his career at the French Open is to go in without the expectation that he’ll win the tournament.
“He’s always seen it as an opportunity, but he never goes in with an attitude that it’s a foregone conclusion and I think that plays to his strength.
“He shows the utmost respect to everyone.”
The victory has reignited the debate over who is the greatest of all time, with Nadal and Federer now tied with 20 titles each and Djokovic on 17.
Woodbridge believes that Federer, at age 39, faces the biggest challenge to add to his tally.
“It’s not about the quality of his play, it’s about can his body handle seven matches at a slam?” Woodbridge said.
“The actual ball-striking part of his game is probably as good as ever, but the body doesn’t come back as easily. The extra couple of years he’s got on Rafa and Novak makes it tough.
“I don’t expect Rafa to retire, but there’d be something special about them finishing on the same number. I think it would be a testament to the amazing rivalry he and Roger have had, that one of them wasn’t considered better than the other.
“Roger’s message on his social media was very classy and he might have almost been saying, that’s good, let’s just go sailing on your boat now.”