PARIS, (Reuters) – Nikoloz Basilashvili had a plan when he turned up to play Rafa Nadal on yesterday but, like Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the face.
And that’s what happened — in tennis terms — to the Georgian in the French Open third round.
“I had a couple of plays in my head of how to play against him,” Basilashvili said. The 6-0 6-1 6-0 scoreline amply illustrates how that went.
“I was expecting, obviously, a very, very difficult match, but not something like this,” he added. “The score is quite embarrassing, you know, but I have to accept it.”
The brutality of Nadal’s destruction of the world number 63 on the Roland Garros main showcourt was withering.
A scan of the statistics makes for grisly reading. Grisly for Basilashvili, grisly for Nadal’s next opponent, fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, grisly for everyone in the draw.
Grisly for everyone in the way of the fourth seed.
For example, it took Basilashvili until the 12th game of the match to register on the scoreboard.
He won one in four of his first serve points in the opening set.
The number of winners he struck in the match could be counted on one hand, and his 34 unforced errors almost matched the entire number of points he won all match — 36.
Yet Basilashvili is no rookie: Nadal did this to him. Consider that the 25-year-old Georgian had already this year beaten then-world number eight Dominic Thiem.
Nadal is a unique creature on clay, though. His statistics are mind-boggling.
Yesterday’s victory was his 100th best-of-five-set match on the slow surface, and he now has a staggering win-loss ratio of 98-2.
Yesterday’s victory was his most one-sided at Roland Garros, where he is speeding towards a 10th title. His previous best was a 6-2 6-0 6-0 win over Juan Monaco here in 2012.
It is an astonishing thought that he may be getting better, but there it is. And you would find few takers to bet against him winning ‘La Decima’ next Sunday.
Professional players rarely speak about each other’s achievements during a tournament.
As Canadian Milos Raonic said yesterday, “I think everyone is focused on themselves quite a bit as long as they are still in this tournament. Everybody is looking down and going about their own business.”
Nadal’s achievements seem to warrant special treatment, though.
“When you do sit down and talk about it, it’s beyond remarkable,” he said of the Spaniard. “It’s going to be one of the greatest… feats in any sport.”
As for the man himself? Taciturn at the best of times, he avoided superlatives with a customary assessment: “Was a great match for me, no?” he told reporters.
“I won winning with that score against a player that already won against (Gilles) Simon and (Victor) Troicki, so cannot say another thing. I played very well.”
Today he celebrates his 31st birthday, but it will take more than another number added to his age to stop Nadal in his tracks.