Nadal the ultimate dirt devil with French Open win
PARIS -- Through the first week of the French Open, Rafael Nadal insisted he wasn't playing the kind of tennis that results in a Grand Slam title.
That assessment was proven wrong when Nadal won his sixth French Open title in the past seven years with a 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1 win over Roger Federer on Sunday.
Nadal wasn't the only one who doubted he'd make it through the tournament unscathed. His uncle, Toni Nadal, who has coached him since 4 years old, said he also thought they'd leave Paris without the trophy.
"It was the first time that we come here without the sentiment, the feeling that we are the best on clay," said Toni, noting that his nephew had lost to Novak Djokovic in the Madrid and Rome finals earlier in the clay-court season.
"At the moment, Djokovic was the best. Rafa came here with many doubts and was nervous the first week."
Toni said the win was a very important success for Rafa.
"This win gives to us great tranquility for the rest of the season," Toni said. "This tournament is the 10th Grand Slam title and we never -- I mean, I won nothing -- thought that he could win 10. It is unbelievable for us."
Courier champions Nadal
Jim Courier, who won the first of his back-to-back French Open titles 20 years ago, presented Nadal with the winner's trophy Sunday. Courier had watched the entire match from the first row of the president's box and was duly impressed.
"It must be a confidence booster as he didn't play well the entire tournament to his standard," Courier said. "But he still played great players and won. That's going to help him a lot going forward. This tournament is the most important to him all year long and gives him that base, and confidence, that he's still the man in his own mind."
With this sixth French Open title, Nadal ties Bjorn Borg's record, which Courier believes is an especially astonishing feat.
"I'm so impressed with what he's able to do mentally and physically," Courier said. "It's jaw-dropping to watch him play on this surface. Borg was always this god on this surface; no one believed that they could beat him. But given the depth of the field today, for Rafa to be as dominant as Borg is unfathomable, and we're just lucky to see it. I have a hard time imagining how you beat this guy on this surface."
Speaking of Borg, there was another player named Bjorn who scored a French Open title on Sunday.
When the junior boys' competition started during the middle weekend of the French Open, the outlook looked bleak for Americans. Not one American boy was ranked high enough to garner a seeding in the 64-player draw.
But then a kid from Pittsburgh named Bjorn Fratangelo became the first American junior boy in 34 years to win at Roland Garros. The last American to take the junior boys' title home was John McEnroe.
Fratangelo showed great gumption by earning the title in a hard-fought 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 win over No. 14 Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Fratangelo, 17, is the rare American who favors playing on clay. Despite his advantage, he had only one small goal in mind when arriving in Paris.
"I never won a Grand Slam [junior] match before," said Fratangelo, who lost in the opening rounds of the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open junior tournaments. "My first expectation coming here was to get through my first round. If I could do that, then I'm not pleased, but thank God I finally got the first round out of the way."