PARIS — Even Stan Wawrinka had to smile before Sunday’s French Open final when the stadium announcer listed year by year each of the nine previous titles Rafael Nadal had won at Roland Garros.
Another one can now be added to the list — and it is one for the ages — after the Spaniard crushed Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1 to become the first man to win the same grand slam on 10 occasions.
It is a feat that might never be duplicated.
He collapsed to the court when Wawrinka sent a backhand into the net and seconds later an emotional Nadal sunk his head into his towel while in his chair.
“It’s truly incredible,” Nadal told the crowd. “In this final, to win the Decima is very, very special. I’m really emotional.
“The feeling I have here is impossible to describe. Difficult to compare to other places. For me the nerves, the adrenaline I feel when I play on this court is impossible to compare to another feeling. It’s the most important event in my career without a doubt.”
His coach and uncle, Toni, got choked up, too, when he unexpectedly came on court to present Nadal with a special trophy celebrating those 10 titles.
Toni won’t travel with his nephew next year, as he steps aside to focus on his work at Nadal’s new tennis academy in Mallorca.
Only 12 months ago, a tearful Nadal bailed from his favorite tournament in the first week with a wrist injury, another in a seemingly endless list of ailments to derail the 31-year-old.
Temporarily, that is.
Be it his knees, wrist or appendicitis, Nadal has always managed to recover and rediscover some of his finest tennis.
Agonizingly close to winning a 15th major at the Australian Open in January — he lost to great rival and Wawrinka’s fellow Swiss Roger Federer after holding a break lead in the fifth set — there was no denying Nadal at Roland Garros as he ended a three-year drought at majors.
“It’s always been an honor to play against you,” Wawrinka told Nadal as he addressed the crowd. “Something really special and just congrats for your career and all your team.”
Nadal moved into sole possession of second place in men’s majors, pulling away from American Pete Sampras and once again getting to within three of Federer.
And for the third time — after 2008 and 2010 — he won the French Open title without conceding a set, dropping a mere 35 games in seven matches. He averaged less than two hours on court.
He is not dubbed the ‘King of Clay’ for no reason.