Seventh heaven for Nadal in Paris
RAFAEL Nadal became the first man ever to win seven French Open titles as he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 in their rain-delayed final at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard, who has now surpassed Bjorn Borg, had trailed 2-1 in the fourth set when they resumed this afternoon following last night's suspension but he immediately retrieved the break and clinched victory when Djokovic double-faulted.
The world number one had been bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam trophies at once following three successive victories over Nadal, but this time the king of clay turned the tables.
Yesterday's first part had certainly not been short on drama, whether it was the fluctuating fortunes of both men or the weather itself.
It had rained for almost the whole three hours, and the wet and heavy conditions affected Nadal both physically and mentally during the third and fourth sets.
The Spaniard was getting increasingly irate as they continued to play, the balls so wet and laden with clay that he could not impart his vicious spin.
From two sets and a break up, he lost eight games in a row before composing himself to win the final game last night, which looked very important when he promptly broke in the first game today to level the fourth set at 2-2.
The slow but dry conditions were perfect for the Spaniard, although he got a huge slice of luck with a net cord on break point that left Djokovic helpless at the net as the ball whizzed past him.
With Nadal leading 4-3, the rain resumed, although it was light, and the Spaniard's feelings were obvious when he sprinted from his chair before the umpire had called for play to restart.
Djokovic looked briefly perturbed but, as has done so often over the last 18 months, he steeled himself to find a way through the game.
He could not threaten on Nadal's serve, though, and the second seed moved to within one game of victory with a love hold.
Suddenly the rain was falling much harder, bringing tournament referee Stefan Fransson onto court, but the players stayed on in their seats while the worst of it fell and then resumed after a brief delay.
Djokovic withstood the first challenge as he served to stay in the match, but at 5-6 Nadal sensed blood and he brought up a first match point with a thundering forehand.
The Serb's resistance crumbled and he ended the match on a double fault, with Nadal sinking to his knees on the clay as he savoured a moment of history.
Nadal climbed into the stands to embrace his support team before taking his customary bite of the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
The Spaniard, who has moved level with Borg and Rod Laver on 11 grand slam titles, said of overtaking the great Swede: "It's an honour but the most important thing is this tournament. It's unforgettable, one of the most special moments in my career."
Djokovic joined Roger Federer, who twice saw his hopes of holding all four trophies ended by Nadal in Roland Garros finals, but the Serb had no complaints with the result.
He said: "I feel really privileged to be in this position, being in the final at Roland Garros for the first time. I enjoyed the match, Rafa was the better player. I hope to come back next year and play even better."