by: Tom Cochrane
Rafael Nadal is once again the men’s singles Frenc h Open champion, the second-seed claiming a record-breaking seventh crown at Roland Garros by finally conquering world number one Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam final.
Day 16 Recap
After play was suspended late last night amid driving rain and muddy conditions on-court, today’s forecast for Paris didn’t offer much hope for fans. Once more, wet and rainy conditions were predicted, but just after 1:00pm local time the players took to Court Philippe Chatrier to resume their battle.
While Djokovic was the first player to lose his cool yesterday, smashing his racquet and taking a chunk out of his courtside chair en route to losing the second set, it was Nadal who had become far more agitated by the end of last night’s play. The wet, slow conditions had taken away the incredible purchase Nadal normally extracts from his groundstrokes, and no doubt Djokovic’s run of 8 games in a row brought back some nightmares from the last 12 months for the Spaniard, who had succumbed to the Serb’s brilliance in the last 3 Grand Slam finals.
But upon resuming play, the conditions were slightly faster and less muddy than yesterday, and Nadal took full advantage, breaking Djokovic in the opening game of the day’s play to level the fourth set at 2 games apiece. Once again, Djokovic got angry at himself, as the top seed was unable to replicate his sublime stretch of play in the third set of the match. Back on serve, Nadal kept his nose in front, as the unforced errors started to rack up once more for the world number one.
Serving at 5-6 and looking to take the set to a tiebreaker, an unforced error off the forehand wing and a cruel double fault on match point were enough of an opening for Nadal to finish the match and claim the eleventh major of his career, 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5. The awkward ending was perhaps fitting for an awkward match affected by rain delays, tension on the part of both players, and some unusual swings in momentum.
For Nadal, it was a profoundly emotional celebration, a concession to the immense pressure that’s been piled on the Spaniard to make history at Roland Garros and to somehow find a solution to Djokovic’s magnificence over the past year and a half. Wins in Monte Carlo and Rome over Djokovic gave the Spaniard confidence, but the French Open championship is, in Nadal’s own words, his most important and favourite tournament.
Clay is clearly Nadal’s preferred service, and the rain delays late yesterday undeniably assisted the Spaniard in this final, but I suspect this win will be a huge boost for the world number two as he goes into a summer jam-packed with Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
For Djokovic, it’s a hard loss to take after the Serb completely turned around the match in the latter stages of yesterday’s play. But the top seed’s luck was due to run out at some stage after incredible wins over Federer at Flushing Meadows last year, Murray and Nadal in Melbourne early this year, and Tsonga earlier this week in Paris. Djokovic showed during the third set that, at his best, nobody on the ATP Tour can deny him. Unfortunately for the Serb, he was only able to execute at his best for short parts of the final, but his belief in his ability to turn around the match from a hopeless situation will hold him in good stead for the impending grass-court season.
That’s it for this year’s French Open final. I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage courtesy of The Satellite Serve. I’ll be back in a fortnight for the start of Wimbledon.