Toni Nadal: 'One Brutal Display After Another'
In what has become almost tradition, Rafael Nadal stamped his authority on Court Philippe Chatrier, this time by defeating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires for an 11th time. In similar tradition, Rafael's uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, was on hand to congratulate his nephew after the victory. Despite having seen his former pupil triumph in 16 Grand Slam finals before, Toni was emotional following Nadal's unprecedented win on Sunday.
"I couldn't have imagined Rafa accomplishing what he's managed to do throughout his career, especially here at Roland Garros," Toni told ATPWorldTour.com. "It's beyond incredible to me; he puts on one brutal display after another. I've seen him do this over and over again but it's still so special to me when he wins because I know he's competing with a lot of pressure and high expectations. He doesn't want to let his supporters down."
Toni also understands the amount of work his nephew has put into continuously developing his game off the court to compete at the highest level possible on it.
"I remember when he won the first time at Roland Garros, someone said to me 'Rafa's going to win a lot more of these trophies.' It seemed outrageous to think he'd win 10 more after that but I can see how he's managed to do that. He works as hard as possible; he's always trying to lift his game to new heights."
So was the final win over Thiem as easy for Nadal as the score indicated? Toni doesn't think so. "The match was very close in the first set," Toni said. "Dominic was holding his own; he was right there with Rafa until the last game of the first set. That's when things changed and Rafa started imposing his will. In tennis, things can change almost instantly. It was the same against Juan Martin (Del Potro); he was holding his own with Rafa in the first set. But after that, Rafa went on a tear."
For the fifth time in his career, Nadal was crowned the champion at Roland Garros without dropping a set in the final. It's a testament to both Nadal's consistency and his longevity.
"Rafa played well here, but it's a matter of playing that well up to and through the final that counts," Toni said. "I remember the 2008 final against Federer; Rafa played extremely well that year as well, but no one would have remembered any of that if he didn't win in the final. It's great to reach a Grand Slam final without dropping a set, so long as you manage to win that last match as well."
As for a possible 12th Roland Garros title? Toni wouldn't question if his nephew will return to Paris with the same intensity and form he demonstrated to lift his 11th crown.
"Rafa's level of play has been extremely high these past two weeks," Toni said. "Let's see if he can repeat that level of play here next year."