This is it.

Two weeks of fun in the Parisian sun (well, mostly) ends with what is in prospect a mouth-watering men’s final.

Nadal. Wawrinka. Both champions already at Roland Garros, you could hardly ask for a better matchup. Two very different, yet equally scintillating players. The former his appearance here an inevitability, the latter by a timely run of form.

Who wins? Read on for our preview of the 2017 French Open men’s singles final.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4] vs Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) [3]

The Storylines

Even without the general tour success of his contemporaries, you’d have to think a win here makes Wawrinka v Andy Murray a legitimate conversation. He’s currently 3-for-3 in major finals, each equally improbable – what’s another for the resume?

Four months after Roger Federer closed the GOAT conversation, a Nadal triumph right here could open it back up. Not that one more major would sway things decisively in his favour, but a fifteenth major certainly helps his case, with the assumption being at 31, he might have a few more in him.

The Form

Maybe he feels it a bit more in the morning than he used to, but right now, Nadal is as dominant as he’s ever been. He’s bageled or breaksticked every opponent he’s played on the way to the final, including Dominic Thiem, who after comprehensively dismantling Novak Djokovic, had his soul devoured by the Spaniard. Really the only thing he’s had trouble winning is the coin toss – he’s the clear favourite, and rightfully so.

No one goes MIA quite like Stan, but no one peaks quite like him either, and right now he’s definitely peaking. The world number three did nothing for most of the clay season, before winning the Geneva 250 the week before the open, then going perfect in his first five RG matches. His semi against Andy Murray was a predictably tight affair, but in the end, his sublime ball striking was too much for the world no. 1, and he enters the final knowing he can out-hit anyone.

The Matchup

With Nadal leading 15-3 in the head-to-head record, it’s safe to say the history doesn’t favour Wawrinka and yet, when it comes to Stan and major finals, the history means less than quantum mechanics to a Kardashian sister. Wawrinka in full-flight is about as good as it gets on a tennis court, and that means Nadal has his hands full. Certainly, the Spaniard’s path to victory is simpler: put 4000rpms on every ball and force Wawrinka to hit from the grandstands, yet there is a way for Stan to counter.

The more heavy balls Wawrinka is forced to hit, the more opportunities it creates for Nadal, either hitting into the open court or with the Swiss coming forward, where he is less than comfortable. As such, Stan has to play high-risk tennis (like that’ll deter him…), throwing caution to the wind and hitting through the court, flattening out almost every ball and going for the sidelines, so that if it isn’t a winner, it’s at least stretches Nadal to the point he can’t get much work on it. The reason Nadal had such an easy time with a similarly hard-hitter in Thiem is because as hard as the Austrian hits, he can’t remove the spin, and that sets Nadal up for more gettable – and hittable – balls. Essentially, it’s the Robin Soderling ’09 blueprint, and one really only Wawrinka is equipped to follow.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, and it’s very possible Wawrinka executes that plan only to see Rafa get everything back and pull winners out of his size-too-small undies. But there’s a chance, which is more than most opponents could say.

The Prediction

Nadal in four. Wawrinka’s shotmaking will earn him a set, but Rafa is playing about as well as we’ve ever seen him on do on clay, it’s hard to see him faltering now.


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