Friday, April 27, 2018
Sports

Nadal earns record-setting win

PARIS — Rafael Nadal was worried.

A guy so unflinching, so nearly unbeatable, while sliding and grinding and pounding his way past opponent after opponent at the French Open, got a real case of nerves during the 18 hours he and Novak Djokovic waited for the restart of their rain-interrupted final at Roland Garros.

Instead of focusing on how close he was to winning a record seventh French Open championship, Nadal grew increasingly wary of the other possible outcome: a loss in a fourth consecutive Grand Slam final against Djokovic, who was trying to become the first man since 1969 to collect four straight major titles.

When play was halted by showers Sunday, Nadal was clinging to an ever-shrinking lead. It wasn't until a few minutes before setting foot back on Court Philippe Chatrier that Nadal set aside his anxiety. He overwhelmed the No.1-ranked Djokovic for the 50 minutes and nine games they played Monday, wrapping up a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory that allowed Nadal to earn French Open trophy No. 7, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg.

"You never know if you're going to win another one," said the second-ranked Nadal, who owns 11 Grand Slam titles.

"I don't know if I am the best or not," he added. "I am not the right one to say that."

Djokovic, for his part, had zero doubts. He worked his way back into the match with an eight-game run when it was pouring Sunday, but otherwise was outplayed, at the start and the finish.

"He's definitely (the) best player in history … on this surface," said Djokovic, whose 27-match Grand Slam winning streak ended, "and results are showing that he's one of the best ever."

Can't argue with that. Since his French Open debut at age 18 in May 2005, Nadal is 52-1 for his career at the tournament, the only loss coming to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009. He's just as good elsewhere on clay, too: Nadal's won eight titles at Monte Carlo, seven at Barcelona, six at Rome.

Asked to explain his success on the surface, Nadal pointed not to his forehand, or his superior returns of serve, but rather to his movement, his mental fortitude, and this: "I always was scared to lose."

Djokovic gave Nadal reason for added concern, having beaten him in the final at Wimbledon in July, the U.S. Open in September, and the Australian Open in January.

Nadal gained ground on Roger Federer's record of 16 Grand Slam titles, tying Borg and Laver for fourth place.

Well-rested Monday, Nadal and Djokovic opened with a crescendo: The first point contained eight strokes, the third had 11, the fourth had 16 and the fifth had 21, ending with Djokovic's errant forehand that gave Nadal a chance to break.

On the next point, Nadal's shot slapped the white tape atop the net and trickled over. Djokovic got to the ball but couldn't do much, setting up Nadal for a cross-court backhand passing winner.

That was the break Nadal needed.

"When you lose, it's because you don't deserve the title," Nadal said. "So in my mind, this was the final I had to win. That's why I was so emotional."

Comments
After first round, here are 10 names to watch for Bucs at No. 38

After first round, here are 10 names to watch for Bucs at No. 38

The first round of the NFL draft is complete, and the Bucs held off on trading back up, leaving them with three second-round picks Friday night.Their own pick is No. 38 — the sixth pick of the second round — and they added two more —...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

PLANT CITY — Plant City softball coach Ashley Bullion is 4-for-4 after Thursday night.Four years at the helm, four district titles.The latest championship came in a 4-1 victory over East Bay in the Class 8A, District 6 final, a victory highligh...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: Recent momentum carries Mitchell past Sunlake

LAND O' LAKES — Despite being on the wrong end of two lopsided outcomes to Sunlake during the regular season, recent events gave Mitchell hope in its Class 7A-10 district final rematch with the Seahawks.Just two days prior, the Mustangs be...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: Robinson makes it 10 straight wins vs. Jefferson

TAMPA — For the Robinson softball team, the perfect 10 was complete.The top-seeded Knights defeated No. 2 Jefferson for the 10th consecutive time Thursday and claimed their fifth district championship in a row, a 12-2 five-inning victory in the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: Itís April, so Chamberlain is winning

TAMPA — Coach Bob Diez and his Chamberlain Chiefs have always believed in this motto: "Be good in April."This is their season.The Chiefs added another Class 7A-8 district title Thursday against Gaither with a 7-0 victory.With the win, the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: East Lake is aggressive from the start

TARPON SPRINGS — If strong pitching and defense are the bellwethers of a deep playoff run, consider East Lake ready.Playing second seed Pinellas Park on Thursday night for the Class 8A-7 title, the host Eagles (22-3) used that philosophy to mak...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

Former Florida State safety Derwin James fell farther than expected Thursday in the first night of the NFL draft before being chosen by the Chargers with the No. 17 overall pick.James became the fifth former Seminoles defensive back ever drafted in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

Lakewood High alumnus and former Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn was drafted No. 23 overall Thursday by the Patriots.Wynn becomes one of the highest drafted offensive linemen in Tampa Bay history and the first Pinellas County player to go in th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs trade down with Bills, take strongman DT Vita Vea No. 12

Bucs trade down with Bills, take strongman DT Vita Vea No. 12

TAMPA — Vita Vea loves to tell the story about the trip he took to French Polynesia with some University of Washington students and the group coming upon some enormous rocks."So over there, their strongman competition is they have a tradition w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Another reason the Bucs took defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12

Another reason the Bucs took defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12

TAMPA — The selection of Vita Vea is a move the Bucs made for the present and the future. While Gerald McCoy remains a dominant defensive tackle, he turned 30 in February and is due to make $12.3 million this season and $13 million in...
Updated: 1 hour ago