Rafael Nadal Really Is Human

Another challenge has come and gone for Rafa Nadal. How many more will there be?

Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)


No one knows. But Rafael Nadal is human.

That may be the best news for his future opponents at Roland Garros.

There he was on Sunday, serving with a two sets, a service break and a 30-0 lead in the fourth game of the third set. The crowd was getting ready for the trophy presentation.

But Rafa suddenly rushed over to the chair umpire frantically holding his left hand and trying to work his fingers. The dramatics lasted only a few moments before it became obvious that Nadal would return to the court.

It was only hand cramps. Rafa’s fan base could take a deep breath.


But the way Rafa plays with such reckless abandon, anything can happen. It’s simply amazing that at age 32 Nadal is playing the best tennis of his life. And that says a great deal about this man’s greatness.

Of course, by the time Nadal resumed play, 24-year-old Dominic Thiem must have sensed that he was fighting a losing battle.

Nadal dropped one more game before closing out a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Thiem that gave the Spanish left-hander his 11th French Open title and 17th Grand Slam tournament crown.

And he even cried tears during the trophy presentation ceremonies.


There will be another year for Thiem. If he learns to play with his head a little more and not try to dominate his opponent with only serves and powerful over-hit ground strokes, the Austrian may soon have his own day in the Grand Slam sun.

Then again, awesome tenacity and aggressiveness from the baseline have made Thiem what he is as a tennis player. It might not in his mentality to play more cautiously.


The thing Thiem probably should really concentrate on now that he is serving in the 140 mph range is his net game. Right now, his volleying doesn’t match the rest of his game..

By contrast, Nadal may be one of the best pure volleyers ever to play this game. Plus, his athletic ability sets him apart from many players, enabling him to move forward and crush almost anything higher than the net, often in acrobatic style.


This final was decided by a five-game stretch after the two players split the first eight games. Nadal won all five of those games to close out the first set and then take a 3-0 lead in the second set.

The real back-breaker for Thiem was the second game of set two when after recovering from a 15-40 predicament, he served an ace to move to game point, but then double-faulted. Two break points later, Nadal came up with a terrific service return that Thiem tried to over-hit. When Thiem’s backhand sailed long, his hopes had to fall.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at



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