At the French Open, there is no doubt who reigns supreme. With a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over countryman David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal pocketed his eighth title at Roland Garros becoming the first man in history to capture the same major that many times.
In route to his maiden major final, 31 year old Ferrer dispatched all comers in three sets. The world number five even thumped hometown favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals after the latter dismissed Roger Federer.
To the contrary, Nadal needed 4 hours and 37 minutes to overcome world number one Novak Djokovic in the semifinals in a five set thriller where Djokovic led 4-2 in the last set.
The first final since 2004 to feature two men from the same nation, when Gaston Gaudio tussled with fellow Argentine Guillermo Coria, debuted promisingly with Ferrer opening the proceedings with a love hold.
However, with a few unexpected miscues from Ferrer, Nadal obtained the swift break for 2-1. But, Ferrer promptly got back on serve for 2 all.
Yet, with a stroke which was called long, it actually touched the line on the unofficial challenge, Nadal had a break point. Ferrer went on to drop serve when his counterpart connected on a backhand crosscourt pass winner.
After Ferrer failed to take advantage of a break point opportunity, Nadal consolidated for a 5-3 edge. With four consecutive mistakes including a double fault, Ferrer donated the game which closed out the first set.
Taking control with his forehand, Nadal capitalized on a break point and built a 3-0 lead to start the second set. Following a tough hold, Ferrer had four chances to erase the deficit. But, Nadal came up with a brilliant backhand pass on the 29th stroke of a rally to arrive at deuce. Then, by bullying Ferrer into miscues, he jumped to 4-1.
The next game, Nadal broke his countryman again for a double break cushion. As Nadal was up serving for the set, a spectator with a flare marched onto the court and was briskly contained by security. Perhaps a bit disturbed, Nadal dropped his serve.
However, Ferrer also flustered by that scene, found himself in a two set hole as a result of four straight mistakes including two double faults.
No one can question Ferrer’s fighting nature. Still, with a 4-19 record versus Nadal and a two set deficit, anyone in his position would crumble. Despite the score, Ferrer continued to persevere.
After Nadal secured a rapid break in the third set, Ferrer manufactured triple break point. With Nadal netting a crosscourt backhand, Ferrer made himself relevant again.
In the seventh game, Ferrer fabricated a break point by forcing Nadal to flub a backhand. Once more, Nadal wiggled out of trouble to put his nose in front 4-3.
Soon, in the next game, Nadal made his push. With Ferrer double faulting on break point, Nadal was four points from lifting the trophy.
As Ferrer’s return landed wide, Nadal had triple match point. After striking a forehand crosscourt winner, an ecstatic Nadal dropped to the ground in celebration.
Nadal congratulated his friend on his first appearance in a final at a major. He iterated that Ferrer deserved to be at this stage saying he’s “a fighter. . . It’s admirable every year you seem to get better and better. It’s a definite credit to your team”.
Ferrer stated that he was “a little sad. . . I was a little nervous the first two set. . . I didn’t play so good. I would have liked to be more aggressive, consistent and finish at net better. Rafa has more experience in these types of matches which makes him impossible to beat”.
Three of twelve on break points, Ferrer experienced the frustration that many including Federer have had against Nadal for years at this venue.
Still Ferrer expressed “it’s been a phenomenal two weeks, I appreciate my team which is always motivating me. It’s my first final at a major. I hope it won’t be the last”.
This triumph is a particularly sweet for Nadal after a seven month absence due to injury “it’s one of the most special ones. . .after a lot of low moments last year. . . I don’t think I’d be here if it were not for my family, my team, the fans with their messages on facebook and twitter which gave me a lot of positive energy. . .the results have been amazing since I came back”.
With his 12th major, Nadal ties Roy Emerson for third on the all time list. Moreover, this is Nadal’s seventh title of the year and his 38th win with only two losses.
Nevertheless, Nadal will see his ranking pegged down a notch to number 5, his lowest since January of 2005 while Ferrer will climb back to number 4.