As he sat in front of a TV to watch last year's French Open final, sidelined by an injured left wrist, Rafael Nadal had no way to know for sure that he would return to the height of his powers.
For the second time in a row, the most important match at the most important clay-court tournament was being contested without him. As the 2017 edition at Roland Garros began, Nadal's drought without a Grand Slam title was stretching to three full years.
“It was difficult,” said Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni. “We were asking ourselves whether he would be able achieve this one more time.”
Turned out he could, and he did, as masterful as at any time. Overwhelmingly good from...