Nadal aiming to turn French Open domination into Wimbledon success

Rafael Nadal aiming to turn French Open domination into Wimbledon success as he tucks into a late birthday cake after turning 33 last week

  • Rafael Nadal triumphed at Roland Garros on Sunday for a remarkable 12th time
  • But it is nine years since the Spaniard claimed the last of two Wimbledon titles
  • The 33-year-old is hopeful he can build on his semi-final finish last year

Rafael Nadal is hopeful he will again be able to challenge for the Wimbledon title after yet another French Open triumph.

The Spaniard lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a remarkable 12th time on Sunday, beating Dominic Thiem in four sets.

And with the celebrations flowing he made time to mark his birthday with an enormous tennis-themed cake, having turned 33 a week ago. 

Rafael Nadal tucks into a late birthday cake on Instagram a week after he turned 33

It is nine years since Nadal won the last of his two titles on the grass of the All England Club. 

But, after several years where adjusting to grass proved problematic for his knees, Nadal appears to have found the right formula.

Two years ago he lost a five-setter against Gilles Muller in the fourth round while last year he pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in a tremendous two-day semi-final.

Nadal said: ‘I played a great event last year. I have been very close to winning another title there.

‘As everybody knows, I love to play on grass. And, as everybody knows, I am not able to play so many weeks in a row like I did 10 years ago, eight years ago. So I have to do my schedule.

Nadal powered his way to his 12th French Open title with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory on Sunday

The Spaniard triumphed in four sets against the ever-improving Austrian Dominic Thiem

‘The last two years that I played in Wimbledon, I felt close again. Even if the first year was that match against Muller, I played great tennis there too.

‘I was very close to being in the quarter-finals, and last year I was one point away from that final.’

Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya, who described the 33-year-old’s 12th Roland Garros title as ‘beyond this world’, also thinks another Wimbledon title is within reach.

‘Of course, why not?’ he said.

‘He lost in the semi-final last year playing a great match. He’s too good to not be a contender in every tournament he plays.’

Nadal will now prioritise rest and recovery after his clay-court exploits so will not be taking a wild card into the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club.

He has entered the tournament for the last three years only to pull out, and sensibly this year decided not to commit.

It is now nine years since Nadal was able to triumph on the grass courts of Wimbledon

‘I will not play before Wimbledon, of course,’ he said. ‘The experience says that having the right preparation, practising well, and maybe a couple of matches before there (works).

‘I felt competitive the last couple of years, so why do I need to change that? What gives me a better chance is being healthy more than playing a lot of matches before.’

This was the second year in a row in which Nadal has beaten Thiem in the final.

The Austrian at least managed a set this time but, after looking like he was right in contention having taken the second set, he made a poor start to the third and won only two more games.

Thiem is the latest challenger to find Nadal at Roland Garros an insurmountable obstacle, but the 25-year-old has time on his side and is improving at a rapid rate.

After knee problems Nadal has improved in recent years and was a semi-finalist in 2018

He said: ‘It’s very tough. Just the numbers are crazy. He won it 12 times. Twelve times the opponents in the finals failed to beat him.

‘So also, me, I didn’t have the right choices or tactics. It would be amazing to get another chance next year, maybe against him or against anybody else.

‘But I saw it again how tough it is to arrive to a grand slam final. So first of all, I have to get there. If that time comes, I will think about how I’ll do even better next year.’

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