Rafael Nadal defied David Ferrer as well as a worrying security breach to become the first man to capture the same Grand Slam title eight times with victory in the French Open final.
Nadal claimed his 12th major with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over his Spanish compatriot who was playing in his first Grand Slam final at the age of 31 and at the 42nd time of asking.
However, the 27-year-old’s push to victory suffered a heart-stopping moment when a protestor leapt from the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier, carrying a flare and protesting France’s controversial same sex marriage law.
The protestor, who was wrestled away by security staff, came within just a few feet of the Spaniard as he prepared to serve at 5-1 in the second set.
The drama, however, did not alter the outcome as Nadal claimed his seventh title of 2013 after returning to the tour in February following a seven-month injury lay-off.
“Thanks to everyone in my family and team,” said Nadal “Without their support, especially when I was out of action, this would have been impossible. Thanks also to everyone who sent me messages on Twitter and Facebook. They all gave me positive energy.”
Ferrer vowed to keep fighting. “I enjoyed the two weeks here. I congratulate Rafa — he’s the best,” said Ferrer. “But I will try my best to have another chance to play in a final and win a Grand Slam. This tournament is very special to me.”
Ferrer had raced through the first game to love, but it was the champion who broke first for 2-1 when his compatriot unleashed a wild forehand.
Ferrer, showing all the attributes which gave the nickname of ‘bloodhound’, was level in the next game at 2-2 and with both sluggers evenly matched, it was going to take something out of the top drawer to settle the opening set.
Nadal produced it right on cue, flashing a superbly controlled, sliding backhand on the move, from 10 metres behind the baseline, past the advancing Ferrer.
Ferrer was in serious trouble and he knew it, suddenly confronted by Nadal’s record of 145 wins against just three losses when he had won the first set of a Grand Slam match.
In no time at all the champion was 3-0 ahead.
Ferrer halted Nadal’s six-game streak for 3-1 but was unable to convert four break points of his own in the fifth game, a marathon duel which included a 29-shot rally.
Nadal was broken but it made little difference to the outcome.
He hit back for 5-3 on Ferrer’s fifth double fault and wrote his name into history when he unleashed another crosscourt winner.
Nadal’s 2013 French Open
1st round — D Brands
4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-3
2nd round — M Klizan
4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
3rd round — F Fognini
7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4
4th round — K Nishikori
6-4, 6-1, 6-3
Quarter-final — S Wawrinka
6-2, 6-3, 6-1
Semi-final — N Djokovic
6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7
Final — D Ferrer
6-3, 6-2, 6-3
Grand Slam winners
17 — R Federer
14 — P Sampras
12 — R Emerson, R Nadal
11 — B Borg, R Laver
10 — B Tilden
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2013.