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Rafael Nadal vs Stan Wawrinka
Date: Sunday 11 June, 2017
TIME: 2:00 pm ET
Venue: BBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Something will have to give on Sunday afternoon when Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka walk on to the Philippe-Chatrier Court for the French Open men’s final.
Nadal, aiming to be the first man to ever win a grand slam singles title 10 times, has a perfect 9-0 record in his previous nine appearances in the closing match of the tournament.
The Spaniard was a dominant force on clay between 2005 and 2014, winning nine times in 10 years at Roland Garros, and only the brief rise on clay of Novak Djokovic and his own injury problems have caused the last time he lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires to be three years ago.
However, the man standing in his path on Sunday also has his own streak that he will be seeking to maintain.
Wawrinka has a perfect record in grand slam finals. Played three and won three.
He beat Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open, though the Spaniard was hampered by a back injury on that occasion in Melbourne.
The Swiss world No 3 won at Roland Garros two years ago, beating Djokovic, and then beat the Serbian again at last year’s US Open final.
Wawrinka is a big game player, who thrives in the environment of a two-week long tournament where you have the time to build momentum and find your form as the rounds proceed.
While he had got through to the semi-finals without dropping a set, he had been unconvincing at times in the early rounds, his straight sets wins over Jozef Kovalik and Alexandr Dolgopolov were not without moments of worry.
But as is so often the case, Wawrinka has got better and more confident as the event unfolded.
He dropped only seven games in beating Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals, and the biggest criticism of his win over world No 1 Andy Murray on Friday was he should not have needed five sets to conquer the Briton.
So it sets up an intriguing match-up on Sunday with two perfect records going in, and only one of them surviving.
All the statistics scream that it will be Nadal’s afternoon. He has only dropped 29 games in his run to the final, though his quarter-final match with Pablo Carreno Busta was curtailed early in the second set, when his compatriot was forced to stop due to injury.
He has yet to drop a set in the tournament, and this is only the fourth time – after 2007, 2008 and 2010 – that he has reached the summit clash on the back of six successive straight sets victories.
The injury concerns that had waylaid Nadal in recent years appear to be gone, and he is able to attack from the back of the court with the power in his strokes again.
He will need to be on the offensive from the off against Wawrinka, as if he gives the 32 year old any openings, and the chance to unleash his one-handed backhand, then it will cause him problems.
Wawrinka is strong both physically and mentally. He was the better player against Murray on Friday, and despite being a break up conspired to drop the first set.
But he bounced back strongly and deservedly avenged his loss to Murray at the same stage 12 months ago.
Roger Federer had his fairytale return to winning ways at a grand slam tournament in January, beating Nadal at the Australian Open final.
Nadal has been the form player of 2017, however, with three titles and three runners-up spots, and the icing on the cake will be winning a long awaited 15th major title, and a 10th in Roland Garros.
He has to start as favourite on Sunday, but he will be wise not to overlook the challenge of the man who has made a habit of taking advantage of every opportunity that comes his way at the business end of a major.Watch Now