The European clay court season has seen a turnaround in fortunes for the Swiss number two. Ending 2012 as the highest-ranked player (#17) to fail to win a title, he has already captured one trophy in 2013, downing David Ferrer in commanding fashion to take honours two weeks ago in Portugal. Following it up was his final run in Madrid, where he took out Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych in successive rounds (all in three sets) to earn the right to square off against Rafa in the final. Such stats have returned him to the top 10 in the rankings, and also give him better year-to-dates than his highly-decorated Davis Cup teammate.
Yet despite Wawrinka's improved achievements this season, he was unable to convert his second successive final appearance into a second successive title. He came up against a player who was just too strong and inspired on the day to allow the Swiss man any glimpse of a victory. Nadal went through Sunday's final without facing a single break point, and lifted his fifth trophy since his comeback in February, his third in Madrid.
Nadal's post-knee injury stats are nothing short of phenomenal. He has entered seven tournaments over the past two and a half months and has reached the final in every one. In addition he has captured five trophies, and pushed his points total for the year to within 100 of current Race to London leader Novak Djokovic. With his only significant points left to defend from 2012 being the 2000 he accumulated through his French Open victory, it is not fantastical to suggest that Nadal may end the year back in the top two in the world. His nearest rivals all have question marks around them. Federer, for example, continues to fluctuate in form and could see his Wimbledon title under threat this year. Ferrer has largely failed to capitalise on his superlative '12 season, succumbing to Nadal too easily in their encounters and similarly ceding the final in Portugal to Wawrinka. And finally, Andy Murray also may still lack the mentality to repeat his stellar feats of last Autumn. Nadal is poised for an assault on the top two, and it would be foolish to bet against him.
In the earlier WTA final Maria Sharapova once again wilted when faced with Serena Williams. Despite the solidity of her tournament and the #1 ranking on the line, she couldn't prevent the American bagging the 50th title of her career.
Williams sits just behind Monica Seles in the records of all-time WTA titlists, the Yugoslav capturing 53 throughout her time on tour. Serena could eclipse this total by the end of 2013.