Rafael Nadal vs. Stan Wawrinka
Rafael Nadal is 9-0 in Roland Garros championship matches. Stan Wawrinka is 3-0 in major finals. Who wins? Who keeps his streak? I think there is a clear on paper favorite. However, I think this match is much closer than what the paper says. Rafael Nadal is the most dominant clay court player ever. He has a head-to-head lead over Wawrinka. Nadal has been the best player on clay in 2017.
So Rafa should win right?
Probably. Nadal has a clear path to victory. Rafa is able to play hard-hitting tennis with a high margin for error. This is especially true on clay. Rafa’s historic success on clay and his 2017 successes on dirt have him playing with a high level of confidence. His forehand is lethal.
So why might Rafa not win?
Yes he Stan er can
Stan Wawrinka can hit through a lot of courts and a lot of opponents. I think Stan has a good record in big matches because he tends to dictate play. His fate is in his hands and that may be somewhat calming despite the enormity of these situations. If Stan can win some free points with his serve, set up some easy points with his serve, and groove his big shots, Rafa may be in for a tough day. Stan can win and that alone has a mental impact on both him and Rafa.
So what happens?
I think Stan will land some power shots and make an impression on Nadal. The question is can he do that often enough and cleanly enough to win the match. If Rafa dictates play, Stan is in deep trouble as his defensive skills will not be enough to wear Rafa down. Stan can only win if he dictates play. Rafa can win by playing defensive tennis and will win if he dictates play. That gives Nadal two paths to victory and Stan one. So I think the match will be closer than Rafa’s previous 6 rounds, but I think Rafa will probably prevail.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
* I will have a synopsis of the women’s and men’s finals up tomorrow. I lost all internet access yesterday at a pretty bad time for a tennis writer to lose internet access.