With three-peat complete, Nadal readies for Wimbledon

Federer and Nadal have combined to win the last nine Grand Slams. Is history going to continue to repeat itself in years to come, or is Nadal's game evolving to the point where he will be even more dangerous at the other majors?

Updated: June 10, 2007, 9:36 PM ET
By Bonnie DeSimone | Special to ESPN.com

PARIS -- Rafael Nadal won his third straight French Open title in a way that would lead most people to predict a few more in his long-range forecast.

The trickier question is whether he and Roger Federer will remain stuck in the same annual weather pattern of one for me, three for you.

Does Nadal's mastery make it more or less likely he'll win a Grand Slam on another surface?

Grand Slam Winners
Since 2005

Slam Winner
2007 French Nadal
2007 Australian Federer
2006 U.S. Federer
2006 Wimbledon Federer
2006 French Nadal
2006 Australian Federer
2005 U.S. Federer
2005 Wimbledon Federer
2005 French Nadal
2005 Australian Safin
"That's simple," Federer said. "It's just like me, when I won my first Wimbledon, I thought, 'Well, I know how to win a Grand Slam tournament, so I can win the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Roland Garros.' It gives you motivation and confidence.

"And given his final in Wimbledon last year, he knows that, on all other surfaces, he can win the title. He won Indian Wells easily, and that's a surface which is very similar to that of the U.S. Open or to that of Australia. So why not the other Grand Slam tournaments?"

Why not, indeed. Nadal at 21 is already far more versatile than the man who presented him the trophy Sunday. Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten won three times at Roland Garros but never got past the quarterfinals at another Slam.

U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe likes Nadal's chances.

"He's learned to play more aggressively on other surfaces, and it's actually helped him on clay," McEnroe said. "He plays with so much spin and margin that he can still be a human backboard, but he also punishes guys. Do I think he'll win another one this year? I'm not sure. Roger is still the prohibitive favorite in the other two.

"There's something special about [Nadal's] mentality more than anything. He has said from the outset that he wanted to win Wimbledon and he wanted to be No. 1. … He has the physical tools to do it and great feel. He doesn't come to the net much, but when he gets in the forecourt, he's pretty comfortable. A lot of clay courters don't like to come out of their comfort zone. He's forced himself to do that."

Nadal and Federer have opposite predicaments, obviously. Federer needs Paris to complete his set, and Nadal's collection is a matched set at the moment.

"You always take one of each," said Mats Wilander, a seven-time Slam winner who won everywhere but Wimbledon. "You always take the career Grand Slam, even if it's only four to my seven."

Wilander, a consistent contrarian among analysts, speculated that Nadal's hat trick could encourage stagnation rather than progression.

Rafael Nadal
AP Photo/Francois MoriRafael Nadal ran down just about everything Roger Federer threw at him in the final.
"If he keeps winning on clay, the pressure is just going to mount to win a Slam on another surface," Wilander said. "He needs to say, 'Forget the French. That's it, I've won the French.' Still try, still come, of course, but start focusing on the other ones.

"Winning the French three times in a row, it's unbelievably impressive, but the downside is he's maybe working too hard to win the French Open and not changing his game enough to where he'll have success on other surfaces, which will then also result in a surprise loss at the French Open one day. It's a give and take."

Nadal showed no sign of wanting to abandon one goal for another, however.

"I think I am a little bit more complete," he said. "I can go to the net sometimes. Here, it's tough, especially against Roger, because he has unbelievable passing shot, backhand and forehand. But I know I can go to the net and have better chances than before. I can play a little bit more aggressive with my forehand. I improved the backhand, too.

"You never know what's going on after this tournament, no? But sure, I am very happy about my clay season, about my performance this year, because I win a lot of matches, but I win a lot of matches playing well. Last year, I won a lot of matches without playing well."

Two-time French Open winner Jim Courier had perhaps the most straightforward view of all.

"Rafa is still improving on this surface," Courier said. "We have to remember that he's only just turned 21. Winning Paris helps him everywhere else, and clearly his confidence grows from the win. He'll be a factor at Wimbledon."

Bonnie DeSimone is a freelancer who is covering the French Open for ESPN.com.