Roger Federer learned the lesson in 2006 and again in 2007. Today, it was Novak Djokovic’s turn. With clay virtuoso Rafael Nadal around to dream of a calendar grand slam or owning all four majors at once is pointless. Nadal prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 over Djokovic to earn his 11th major and a record seventh French Open trophy.
Regardless of the outcome, history would be made at Roland Garros. World number one Djokovic was vying to be the third player in three years to attain the career grand slam and the first since Rod Laver to hold all four majors simultaneously. For his part, Nadal was seeking to surpass Bjorn Borg and become the winningest male.
Nadal capitalized on break point in the opening game. Then, after consolidating at love, the Spaniard arrived at double break point with a forehand pass down line winner. He captured a 3-0 lead when Djokovic sent a forehand wide.
However, courtesy of a sleuth of errors from Nadal, Djokovic fabricated break point and scored his first game. Subsequent to a hold, with a double fault donation from Nadal, Djokovic had break point. The Serb squared the initial set when Nadal’s backhand landed long.
Later, Djokovic double faulted on break point to hand Nadal a 4-3 edge. That time around, without trouble, Nadal went on to seal the set.
In the second set, Djokovic double faulted again on break point to gift wrap the game for his rival. Nadal wiped out a break point and eventually consolidated for 2-0.
Yet, following a forehand crosscourt winner to capture his first game of the second set, Djokovic hit a sensational lob on double break point to level things at 2 all.
Next, with another hold, Djokovic had his first lead in the final at 3-2. But, subsequent to a comfortable game by Nadal, on a forehand up the line miscue, Djokovic stared at break point. Nadal converted with a forehand down the line winner.
With a love hold, Nadal extended his advantage to 5-3. With the steady drizzle becoming unsafe, play was halted.
When the action resumed, Nadal cashed in on a break point with a backhand crosscourt pass to punctuate the second set. Now, Nadal’s victory seemed a foregone conclusion.
After salvaging break point, Nadal raced to a 2-0 edge in the third set. But, with the rain unrelenting, Djokovic began to bully Nadal around the court and found the equalizer for 2 all. Then, Djokovic broke for the second straight time to go ahead 3-2. Djokovic captured the next three games to steal the third set.
Soon, Djokovic capitalized on break point with a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner to start the fourth set. By carrying eight consecutive games, Djokovic was up 2-0.
At that juncture, Nadal expressed his strong displeasure with having to compete in the rain. After the Spaniard guarded serve, play was suspended and until today.
The sun was shinning when the two got back on court today. On a forehand down the line winner, Nadal had break point. Helped by a net cord, Nadal hit a backhand crosscourt winner past Djokovic for 2 all.
Neither competitor faced break point nor deuce for the next seven games. However, with Djokovic serving at 5-6, two of his miscues resulted in 30-30. Following, Nadal crushed a forehand down the line winner to arrive at championship point.
With Djokovic double faulting for the third time on break point in the match, Nadal secured the title.
Djokovic congratulated Nadal and his team on their accomplishment. He thanked the public for “its love for the sport. . .remarkable match to be a part of. . . It was a privilege to be in this position, I did not imagine so two years ago”.
Also, Djokovic stated “I cannot be disappointed, my first Roland Garros final. I could have been out in the fourth round or the quarters. [Despite being two sets down], I told [myself] just fight. I always believed I could turn it around”.
Moreover, Djokovic cited “today, I played well but Rafa was better in the deciding moment, the better player. I hope to come back next year”.
Nadal thanked everyone, particularly his team “without you this would be impossible”. In surpassing Borg, Nadal expressed “it’s really an honor. [Borg] is one of the more charismatic players. The comparison is fantastic. [The French Open is] the most special tournament in the world”.
Sunday’s stoppage according to Nadal was “late but in time. With the heavy rain, conditions were difficult. He was pushing me back always attacking”.
After seven successive take downs by Djokovic, three in finals at a major, Nadal now has won their last three meetings. Nadal also snapped Djokovic’s 27 match winning streak at majors, tied for second best with Federer.
Like Borg, Nadal now has 11 majors. More importantly, Nadal avoided the dubious distinction of being the first individual to lose four straight finals at a major. With the victory, Nadal safeguarded his number two ranking.
When Nadal was asked if he has enough room for another French Open trophy, he replied “sure, there’s a space for a Roland Garros trophy”. Translation, there’s always room for more.
Consequently, with Nadal around Djokovic may have to wait a while,perhaps forever, to clear a spot on his mantle for his ‘Coupe des Mousquetaires’