At French Open, Feats of Clay for Nadal, Henin

Clay court stalwart Rafael Nadal wins another French Open, while Justine Henin wills herself to the women's title. Bud Collins, Boston Globe columnist and NBC tennis commentator, offers his insights on the tournament.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host

Rafael Nadal has won his third straight French Open title, beating Roger Federer. Joining me on the line to talk about the results of the French Open is Boston Globe columnist and NBC sports commentator, Bud Collins. Good morning.

Mr. BUD COLLINS (Columnist, Boston Globe; Sports Commentator, National Broadcasting Corporation): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And just to explain the sound, you're on an airport headed out…

Mr. COLLINS: I'm in an airport trying to hide and find a decent place.

MONTAGNE: Okay. Well, what does Nadal's victory mean for him, and maybe and just as importantly for his nemesis, Roger Federer?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, I think it was a big shock. Even though, Federer trails Nadal overall and Nadal has now beaten him seven out of eight times on clay. What must Roger be thinking? He's there - I'm the number one player in the world, why can't I beat this guy? Well, his world doesn't seem to include clay courts like the French Open. But Nadal is coming so fast. You know, he was an astonishing finalist at Wimbledon last year, losing a tight match to Federer. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins at Wimbledon, and that may change the whole dynamic.

MONTAGNE: Well, was that really it as far as the fact that Federer can't seem to win the French Open?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, on clay, and Nadal has this fantastic topspin. The ball moves all over the place. And Roger complained that it's very awkward because Nadal is a left-hander. Now, Federer should blame Nadal's Uncle Toni, because Nadal is a natural right-hander, but Uncle Toni - who coaches him - decided that he'd be more dangerous as a left-hander, and that came true.

So left-handers do have an advantage in tennis, but he's big. He's strong. He's fast. If Nadal were an American, he probably would have wound up as a professional linebacker, not a tennis player.

MONTAGNE: Now over on women's side, Justine Henin was the victor. And like Nadal, this is her third French Open title in a row. Talk to us about how she won.

Mr. COLLINS: Well, she wins because she's one of the hungriest players I've ever seen. She's had a lot of misfortune in her life - disease, injury and estrangement from her family. But the estrangement has ended after seven years and she's a happier person, but she's no less hungry. She doesn't want to beat people, she wants to bulldoze them and she wants every single point. She's a tremendous competitor and she's quick. You know, she's smaller than anybody she plays.

She's five feet five, weighs 120 pounds and she's a dwarf on the tennis circuit these days. In the final, Ana Ivanovic, she beat six feet one, and Maria Sharapova, six feet two, Venus Williams, six feet two. So, Ana is running around, a little kid there, trying to - or maybe it's a Napoleonic complex, I don't know. But she's beating up on everybody.

MONTAGNE: Now, American players, both men and women, they were knocked out early in the tournament - the best-known players, of course, the Williams sisters, Andy Roddick - either injured or spin a slump. Is this a moment of eclipse? Disaster, I think I heard you say?

Mr. COLLINS: I did say disaster. Nine American men went out on the first day, and only one woman got as far as the quarterfinals, that's Serena Williams and she doesn't play well there, in losing to Henin. So I would say this was the worst French Open ever experienced by Americans.

MONTAGNE: Bud, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. COLLINS: Thank you, Renee. It's been a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: And have a nice trip. Bud Collins is a columnist for the Boston Globe, now heading for Vienna. He's also a commentator for NBC Sports.

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