Mats Wilander and John McEnroe give their verdicts on Rafael Nadal’s latest French Open win
Former world No 1 Mats Wilander believes Rafael Nadal could still get better on a clay court, despite claiming a remarkable 12th French Open title by beating Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final in Paris.
Nadal’s mastery of the red clay has put him in a league of his own on the surface for more than a decade, yet Eurosport analyst Wilander suggests there could still be more to come from the Spaniard.
“Rafa didn’t even have the perfect clay court season which is scary,” stated Wilander. “The way he hit his backhand in the final tells me he’s still working at his game and developing another way of playing.
“I thought after the second set maybe Rafa’s feeling a little tired, so he just started stepping in and taking his backhand early which surprised Dominic a little bit. The match was over from that point.
“The first two sets against Thiem were insane. It lived up to expectations which, to me, were by far the best two sets of the men’s tournament. It was crucial for Thiem to get a good start. After the second set I thought the momentum was with Thiem and somehow Nadal just grabbed it out of his hands.
“Maybe the bathroom break helped but there was a big difference in the third set. I think Thiem ran out of steam in the third set, he just relaxed a little bit and lost his intensity. Maybe he was just happy to have won a set in a Grand Slam final and he lost the creativity that he had in the first two sets.”
Wilander’s fellow Eurosport analyst John McEnroe suggested he was surprised by Nadal’s tactics in the final, as he suspected the King of Clay might shake uphill game to combat the threat of Thiem.
“I actually thought Rafa would go back to what he used to do earlier in his career and play it safer,” stated former Wimbledon champion McEnroe.
“Only because Dominic had been so much the last few days and it’s the fourth day in a row he’s played, but the fact that Nadal has that backhand in his back pocket, I’ve always wondered when he hits his backhand so good it’s a great shot.
“We are not talking about an average shot here and he’s ripping in cross court. He was moving so amazingly, forward and cutting balls off and making points easier.”
Meanwhile, Wilander went on to suggest Thiem has what it takes to win a major, despite losing in the final of the French Open for the last two years to Nadal.
“I think he’s closer in his mind to Federer, Nadal and Djokovic than anyone else and I think he’s the one that is going win Roland-Garros when Nadal is finished,” he added.
More from Tennis365:
Get to know Britain’s new number one Cameron Norrie as he closes in on a rankings breakthrough
Norrie is guaranteed to overtake Dan Evans in the ATP rankings after reaching the semi-finals in Indian Wells.
Victoria Azarenka’s return to form sweeps her into the Indian Wells final
Paula Badosa will play Victoria Azarenka in…
Defeats for Zverev and Tsitsipas ensure shock final four at Indian Wells
Taylor Fritz saved two match points as he stunned world number four Alexander Zverev
Exclusive – Meet the brothers who grew up alongside Stefanos Tsitsipas and are now teaching the Mouratoglou way
Two of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ former adversaries in the junior ranks have given us the inside story on his rise.
Andy Murray set for huge rankings collapse after Indian Wells exit
Former world No.1 Andy Murray has been…
Moment of history for Ons Jabeur as she seals last four spot in Indian Wells
Ons Jabeur sealed her place in the BNP Paribas Open’s final four with a straight-sets victory over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit.
Grigor Dimitrov gives his verdict as he secures another big win in Indian Wells
Dimitrov’s revival continues as he battled past Hubert Hurkacz in a deciding set tie-break.
Cameron Norrie reaches first ATP Masters semi-final as Indian Wells win sees him become new British No 1
Cameron Norrie saw off Diego Schwartzman in the last eight.
‘I look forward to returning to the Tour in the next couple of weeks,’ says Emma Raducanu after withdrawing from WTA event
Emma Raducanu won’t be heading to Russia next week.
Billie Jean King Cup
‘I have made the decision to not play the BJK Cup Finals,’ says Leylah Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez won’t represent Canada at the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup Finals.