‘King of Clay' goes past Borg and ends Djokovic's dream of four straight Grand Slam titles
Spain's Rafael Nadal sank to his knees in celebration after beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to win a record seventh French Open title on Monday.
The No. 2 seed overtook Sweden's Bjorn Borg, who won six Roland Garros titles, and ended Djokovic's hopes of becoming the third man to win four consecutive Grand Slam events.
In a fractious final pushed into a third week for only the second time, Nadal playing in his 16th Grand Slam final also took his Paris record to a staggering 52 wins against just one loss.
It was the 26-year-old's 11th Grand Slam title, taking him one behind Roy Emerson, three off Pete Sampras and five away from the record of 16 held by Roger Federer.
“For me it is a great honour,” Nadal said, clutching the La Coupe des Mousquetaires (Musketeers Cup) under his arm, after the presentation ceremony on court.
“This tournament is probably the most special in the world and having this trophy with me I am really emotional. It is probably one of the most special moments in my career.”
Play had been suspended on Sunday, because of rain, with the Spaniard a break down in the fourth set, but he broke back in the first game after the resumption, having rediscovered the penetrating fizz that deserted him in the damp conditions of the previous evening.
Then Nadal had moaned vociferously about the wet surface that made conditions underfoot treacherous and the ball hard to see, but he came out refreshed on Monday with the bit between his teeth.
“I was anxious about playing. The conditions last night were not right for a Grand Slam final,” he said.
“Today I wasn't ready for the match — not two hours, or even one hour before the match restarted. I only felt ready to go on court three minutes before. Only then did I feel ready to play. Before that I was too nervous.”
He was back to the player who had raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set on Sunday, managing to generate his vicious top spin on the dry balls.
After Monday's early break, Djokovic did all he could to resist the Mallorcan's charge, holding serve until the 12th game when Nadal conjured up a forehand winner after a 10-shot rally to set up match point.
Djokovic's dream ended with a double fault, leaving Nadal to hold aloft the trophy in front of a packed Court Philippe Chatrier. “Congratulations to Rafa and his team for another title; he is a great player,” Djokovic said. “I am privileged to be in this position for the first time. Rafa was the better player and I hope to come back next year and play even better.”
But Djokovic admitted that he had been disappointed when the final was halted for a second and last time on a rain-plagued Sunday with him having taken the third set and standing 2-1 in the fourth with a break of serve.
“I started to play better in the third set. I hoped to play a fifth set. The first interruption (a set and 5-3 down in the second set) helped me. But the second break did not,” he said.
“The playing conditions were not good. But it's not anybody's fault, and it's not the reason why I lost today.
“I reached the final for the first time here, so I wouldn't change anything. Everything happens for a reason.”
The last time a French Open men's final failed to be completed on the last Sunday was 1973 when it was played on the Tuesday with Ilie Nastase beating Niki Pilic.
Roland Garros will eventually avoid late finishes as a main court with a retractable roof is to be built in 2017.
Men’s singles: Final: 2-Rafael Nadal bt 1-Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.