There are reasons a player must win seven matches in order to win a Grand Slam. There are reasons the way to winning a Slam doesn't always rest with the man or woman who has a soft draw. Let's take a minute and look at the man who won the tournament and the man who had one of the softest draws I've ever seen at a Slam. Not even Roger Federer in his hay day had a draw like the one Andy Murray had in Paris.
Murray started out against Eric Prodon, ATP #124 in singles. Murray through in straight sets. Next was Stephane Bolelli ATP #126. A first set tiebreak was followed by a fairly routine dismissal of Bolelli in three sets. Following for Murray was Michael Berrer ATP #95. I'd call 2,3 &2 a thrashing by Murray. Next up was Viktor Troicki ATP #15 seeded 15th in Paris. Murray won the last three sets to pull out the win over the first seeded player he met. Next up was Juan Ignacio Chela, ATP #34. Murray pulled off a three set win including a first set tiebreak against Chela who had been playing well before facing Murray. Murray's next opponent would be ATP #1 Rafael Nadal.
What had Rafa been up to coming into his match against Murray? He started off against John Isner who forced him into a five setter featuring second and third set tiebreaks won by Isner. Isner is quoted as saying during his presser after his loss that he'd never seen tennis played the way Rafa played in winning the last two sets.
As Marion Bartoli has famously said there is a big difference between being the hunter and the hunted. On paper Rafa's match against Pablo Andujar should've been a romp. Instead it was more like trench warfare and while Rafa won the match in straight sets it was no picnic. The easiest of Rafa's matches was against ATP #227 Antonio Veic. Rafa won that match 1,3 & 0. Next up was ATP #27 Ivan Ljubicic. This had the potential to be a tough match but Rafa won in straight sets.
Rafa's match against ATP #5 Robin Soderling was expected to be a barn burner but the hay must have been wet in that barn and Rafa won in straight sets including a third set tiebreaker.
If the hype was huge about Rafa facing Soderling it was off the charts about Rafa facing Murray. Words like "dominating" and "on form" were being bandied about re Murray's tournament and commentary was rife with speculation about not if but when Murray beat Rafa what his chances would be against Novak Djokovic in the Final. A lot of crow was eaten after Rafa defeated Murray 4,5 &4.
I should say that I never thought Federer would let Djokovic beat him no matter what Djokovic had accomplished coming into Paris. There is too much history there.
So in the final there were the old adversaries once again facing each other in a do or die battle for the French open crown. How did the current sovereign of Philippe Chatrier do? He was down 2-5 in the first set and came back to win it 7-5. Wonder how much that first round match against Isner was in his mind?
He lost the third set 5-7 and it looked as if we'd all have to settle in for the long haul. Instead, echoing that very difficult first round match Rafa decided he wasn't having it and won going away 6-1 in the fourth set.
It's just my opinion - after all I'm just a peon in the world of tennis writers - but without that first round match and hard fought second round I wonder if Rafa would've been as ready as he was today.
A full write up on the French Open including pictures of all the winners will be posted by Tuesday.