THERE ARE very few certainties these days in life – except perhaps when it comes to Rafa Nadal wielding a tennis racket at the French Open.
For the 14th time in 18 attempts, the relentless Spaniard is once more the King of Clay at Roland Garros – and aptly enough it comes on the 17-year anniversary of his first-ever triumph.
His is one of the most astonishing records ever witnessed in professional sport with 112 wins from 115 matches played.
Few people have enjoyed such incredible levels of dominance in the confines of one arena.
And on a Jubilee weekend where royalty has been rightly commemorated and celebrated, it seemed fitting that Nadal should saviour yet another clay-court coronation.
The latest victim, the 74th opponent he has faced on red Parisian clay, was the Norwegian rookie Casper Ruud, who was outgunned and bullied off court 6-3 6-3 6-0 this afternoon.
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In front of the King of Spain Felipe VI, Nadal never tires of that moment of lifting the Coupes des Mousquetaires above his head and taking a bite out of the handle for the cameras.
At the age of 36 – the birthday candles were blown out last Friday – Mallorca man Nadal has surpassed fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno (1972) by two years as the oldest men’s singles champion in Paris in history.
Significantly, he is halfway towards the calendar Slam having won the Australian Open and French Open in the same year for the first time.
And of course, this is his 22nd career singles slam, which puts him two ahead of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the race to finish as the Greatest Of All Time.
While it is easy to take these Nadal victories for granted, they should be thoroughly cherished as he will not be around forever.
Indeed, this final was overshadowed by rumours and concerns that this could be his last appearance on his favourite court.
With the help of painkillers, Nadal has to manage a chronic right foot injury that gives him daily pain and makes him question how long he has left to give.
It is just a shame that Ruud, playing in a maiden final, did not make this more competitive as Nadal won a seventh title out of 14 in straight sets.
The Oslo slugger, who enrolled in the Rafa Nadal Academy as a teenager, was undone in game four of the first set – instead of levelling-up at 2-2 after being 40-30 up he fell 3-1 behind.
Nadal, who was usually rewarded when he came to the net, took the first set in 51 minutes and from that moment there was no looking back.
Once Ruud was 2-0 down in sets, it was like trying to climb Mount Everest while wearing flip-flops – it really was the “impossible task” as he had forecast.
The third set became a real anti-climax as Nadal went through the motions in front of his adoring fans, who started singing Viva España and held aloft their Spanish flags.
When a backhand went down the line, Nadal dropped his racket and Court Philippe-Chatrier, which was now bathed in brilliant sunlight, rose as one to celebrate the King.