I’m really itching to pick Stan Wawrinka to pull the upset tomorrow and stun Rafael Nadal in the French Open final. I say that because Stan has proven over and over again to be a big match, big stage player. And that’s what you have to be to beat Nadal, especially in his house.
That said, Wawrinka’s never done it on the clay at Roland Garros and he’s never beaten Rafa when Rafa has been this in-form.
Yes, there was Australia where Rafa injured himself in the warm-up. And Rome a few years ago when Nadal wasn’t at his best. But now, Nadal’s confidence has to be sky-high having not dropped a set and only giving up a mere 29 games in six matches.
Rafa’s also dominated Stan winning 15 of 18 and 6 of 7 on the clay. If there’s hope for the Swiss, it’s that they’ve split their last six meetings, but like I said, this is a different Rafa. One that’s in full flight.
And the only time they played at the French was in 2013 when Rafa crushed him 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. That was also the first Grand Slam Stan had Magnus Norman with him.
Rafa’s also undefeated in French Open finals at 9-0. Hell, no one has even won two sets off him in the title match.
So all the numbers point to Rafa. But that’s how it usually is when Stan makes a final. He’s the underdog.
Not many pick him and all he does is prove them wrong. Back in Australia, at the French a few years ago and at the US Open last summer. Nope, Stan can’t win. Yet somehow he does.
In the matchup, Stan will have to go on the attack and serve well. And I’m sure he be in attack mode, but his serve is unpredictable.
And I think early on Stan needs to make an impression. He doesn’t have to win the first set, but he has to show that he can take the punch.
For Rafa, he’ll need a good serving day to set up his forehand. If he serves a high number, Stan’s done. But if Stan can get into Rafa’s service games – remember how Roger Federer’s been doing just that this year with the backhand – and make Rafa think, then he’ll be in business.
Stan has to put some doubt in Rafa’s head. Dominic Thiem never did that. Nor do I think Thiem actually believed he could win.
Stan has beaten Rafa in a Slam final and he has won the French Open. So he’ll have the belief.
The problem for Stan is while he’s a 3-0 in Slam finals, Rafa is 9-0 in French Open finals. And 9-0 beats 3-0 every day of the week. So the King stays King.
The Pick: Nadal in 4
An upset here wouldn’t surprise. Stan’s better than Thiem and Thiem did beat Rafa last month. And Rafa hasn’t really faced anyone other than Thiem who going in might offer some resistance, like a Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori or even a JW Tsonga or Milos Raonic. So like Simona Halep today, Thiem maybe just wasn’t ready for it. We know Stan is.
NBC will have live coverage of the final starting at 9am. And that’s it for the clay!
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