S.L. Price is covering the French Open for Sports Illustrated and SI.com. We caught up with him following Rafael Nadal's 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Roger Federer on Sunday to get his impressions of the final weekend of the tournament.
We've seen better matches between Federer and Nadal. How would you rate the caliber of tennis in the men's final?
I don't think it was that great of a match. After Federer evened things up in the second set, he really began to fade. He was really beat up. He had expended so much energy just to get even with Nadal. I thought the quality really fell off in the second half of the match. After the second set, it really began to sag both from Federer's end and the feeling in the arena. You felt the momentum go out of the day. It was not a Titanic struggle to the end. Nadal punished him.
Will Federer ever solve Nadal on clay?
He certainly solved him on clay because he beat him in Hamburg last month but whether he ever solves him in Paris is a huge question. I don't know if anyone is ever going to solve this guy in Paris on clay. When the conditions are like they were today -- heat, dry air -- Nadal is just too strong on this surface. Federer had 17 break points and managed to convert just one of them. His forehand -- his strongest stroke -- fell to pieces. If Nadal is healthy I have a hard time believing anybody can beat him on this surface. At least in his prime.
Both players will be at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks. Is Nadal ready to win at Wimbledon or does Federer return to his usual form?
Well, Federer gets right really quick when he gets on grass. Nobody welcomes the switch from clay to grass more than he does. But we are dealing with a much improved player in Nadal. He is playing the best tennis of his life right now. He just won his third straight French Open and he's a Wimbledon finalist. If I was putting money on it, I would bet we will see a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final. I give Federer the edge but it's going to be closer. The race now is not Federer to the French: It's whether Nadal wins his first Wimbledon before Federer wins his first French.
How did Federer take the loss? He really believed he would break through this year.
The loss really hurts him. He told me earlier in the week that he is convinced he can win here. The Hamburg win told him he could beat Nadal on clay and he thinks he is getting closer and closer. He's 25 years old, which used to be the line of demarcation for great players, the meat of their careers being before the age of 25. But as Guillermo Vilas told me, players back then did not take care of themselves as well as Federer does now. I think Federer will be competing at a high level for some time. But in the interview room afterward, he was definitely drained.
Justine Henin's dismantling of Ana Ivanovic in the women's final was remarkable. How will Henin fare at Wimbledon?
I expect a lot from her at Wimbledon. This is a two-time finalist in good health with a game that converts to grass more easily than you'd expect with a four-time French Open champ. She told me she's feeling more at peace now than ever in her life, and with her family by her side and the pressure from winning her first slam of the year now gone, I think she'll come into the tournament revved and ready. With Maria Sharapova's shoulder still a question and Serena Williams leaving more questions than answers behind her in Paris, I pick Justine to win it.