Tramlines

How many French Open titles will Nadal win?

Every time one thinks that the records broken by Rafael Nadal have all been duly noted, another one inevitably follows. It's an unrelenting stream of brilliance.

When the great Spaniard clinched his seventh French Open title after a gruelling four-set victory over world number one Novak Djokovic, what followed was a barrage of stats regarding his achievements.

But one consistent question followed each impressive statistic: 'How many French Open titles will Nadal win?'

The 'prince of clay' has now won a measly 52 matches at Roland Garros and lost just one, becoming the greatest player the tournament has seen.

Last year, Nadal equalled Bjorn Borg's record of six wins on the Paris clay, and this time around he managed to surpass the great Swede's tally.

Oh, and he's just 26-years-old.

Over the last 18 months, some quite staggeringly dismissive statements have been made regarding the future of the left-hander given a spate of injuries.

Looking at the facts alone, however, Nadal is in very fine health and is enjoying a clean bill of fitness with a consistently distinguished run during the clay-court season.

Apart from nearly taking his own eye out with the elegant, but spiky, Coupe des Mousquetaires and gouging a cut into his cheek, Nadal's efforts have been entirely unblemished. It was the closest he came to being broken in ignominious fashion.

The world number two was seeded second at the tournament — somewhat farcically, given his monumental record at the Slam — but, crucially, the Spaniard was the overwhelming favourite with the satchel swingers, whose judgement was vindicated.

It was a tough match for both players with persistent rain delays and the fact that the final had to be played over two days with bad light joining forces with the torrid weather in intervening.

Roland Garros officials insist that plans for a roof on Philippe Chatrier are in motion. Most tellingly, most tennis journalists rather disdainfully reacted along the lines of 'I'll believe it when I see it'.

There had been widespread criticism of the decision to hold the final over to Monday instead of pressing on with play in dubious light on Sunday evening, and both players appeared world-weary to different extents upon their eventual return.

But it was Nadal who responded the better, breaking back immediately with typical fiery intensity before going on to close out a four-set win with Djokovic left to graciously laud his opponent's achievement.

It was not easy for Djokovic to recognise his rival's incredible feat, given that he was bidding to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Slam titles simultaneously. It was a defeat sorely felt for the ebullient Serb.

"Congratulations to Rafa and his team for another title; he is a great player," Djokovic said with a wry smile after attempting some interesting French.

"I am privileged to be in this position for the first time. Rafa was a better player and I hope to come back next year and play even better."

But as attention turns to next year and the clay-court resurgence promised by Djokovic, the questions inevitably turn back to the irrepressible Spaniard.

At the age of just 26, it is far from inconceivable that Nadal could achieve 10 or more titles at Roland Garros, to further make an indelible mark on the game, to rack up an almost unsurpassable tally of victories.

For his rivals, there is seemingly no let up; for his fans, the Spaniard's dominance is joyfully unceasing.

How many French Open titles do you think Nadal will win? Post your comments below...

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