Rafael Nadal clinched a record seventh French Open title yesterday, defeating world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 and shattering the Serb’s dream of Grand Slam history.
In a fractious final pushed into a third week for only the second time because of Sunday’s rain, the Spanish world number two, playing in his 16th Grand Slam final, also took his Paris record to a staggering 52 wins against just one loss.
Victory, which was achieved on a Djokovic double fault, allowed him to break the tie for six French Opens he shared with Bjorn Borg. 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 five-time major winner Djokovic, the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion, it was the end of his dream of emulating Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) by holding all the Grand Slams at once.
“For me it’s a real honour, this tournament is the most special and for me to have this trophy is unforgettable – it’s probably one of the greatest moments in my career,” said Nadal, who needed just 49 minutes on Monday to complete victory.
Better man won: Djokovic
Djokovic, meanwhile, said that he was disappointed at losing his chance to make history but admitted that the better man won.
“The better player won today, so congratulations for that,” he said. “He is definitely the best player in history on this surface, and results are showing that he is one of the best players that ever played this game, and he is only 26 years old. Hopefully we can have many more battles.”
After Sunday’s suspension, the players, meeting in a fourth successive Grand Slam final, resumed with Nadal leading 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2, but with Djokovic in the ascendancy and serving for a 3-1 lead in the fourth set. But a forehand error from Djokovic, with the court at his mercy, gave Nadal a break point and the Spaniard seized it when the Serb had been left flat-footed by a net cord which allowed his opponent to push through a winner.
The set remained tight as would be expected with the pair meeting for a 33rd time.
Nadal moved to 5-4 as the umbrellas went up all around Philippe Chatrier Court and the players sat courtside to wait out a passing, heavy shower and complained to tournament referee Stefan Fransen about the slippery conditions.
Djokovic finally buckled when a monster forehand from Nadal set up championship point which he converted when the top seed tamely served up a fourth double fault.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.
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