King Rafa triumphs in Paris

World number one beats Federer to equal Borg’s record.


Afp June 05, 2011

PARIS:


Rafael Nadal won a 10th Grand Slam crown and equalled Bjorn Borg’s record of six French Open titles when he defeated Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 in the rivals’ latest epic duel.


Top-seed Nadal, who was also champion in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, took his overall Paris record to 45 wins against just one defeat and victory also meant he hangs on to his world number one spot. But unlike the pair’s 2008 clash, when Federer managed to win just four games in the most one-sided final in 30 years, Nadal was made to work harder for his sixth Paris title.

He had to come from 2-5 in the opener, saving a set point, and then squandered a 4-2 lead in the third as 29-year-old Federer, the 2009 champion and bidding for a 17th Grand Slam title, threatened to launch a stunning comeback. In the end, he was undone by a combination of Nadal’s claycourt prowess and his own 56 unforced errors.

“Thanks to all the fans,” said Nadal. “Thanks to all the ones who make this tournament the best in the world. We played a good match today. Federer played a fantastic match.”

Meanwhile, Federer also praised the Spaniard’s performance.

“It was an exceptional performance by Nadal,” said Federer. “He is the best player on clay and he’s beaten me again. I’m sad but happy at the same time to have played him again. I’m proud of the way I have played over the last two weeks but I couldn’t do enough against him.”

Battling it out

In a final played in heavy, muggy conditions, Federer raced to a 3-0 lead courtesy two confident service games and a break in the second game when Nadal netted a simple forehand.

The Swiss, playing in his 23rd Grand Slam final, was soon 5-2 ahead with Nadal’s problems compounded by having to call for treatment on a blister on his left heel at the changeover.

But Nadal regrouped and saved a set point in the seventh game. The Spaniard went to 3-5 before he retrieved the break in the ninth game with a sweeping, low forehand. Nadal then clinched the set after 62 minutes with a killer forehand crosscourt.

The top-seed dominated the tie break, firing a backhand pass to carve out four set points. In a rollercoaster of an occasion, Nadal fought off two break-points in the opening game of the fourth set, then broke to love for a 3-1 lead and held for 4-1. A netted service return gave Nadal three match points and a sixth title was his when Federer went long with a forehand.

Roger Federer

“Nadal is the best player on clay but I am proud of the way I have played over the last two weeks but I couldn’t do enough against him.”

Rafael Nadal

“I want to congratulate Roger. Sorry for today but he has played incredible tennis these past two weeks. Thank you and see you next year.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2011.

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