Rafael Nadal clinched his ninth French Open and 14th career Grand Slam title on Sunday with a brutal 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic.
The world number one became the first man to win five Roland Garros crowns in succession as he took his record at the tournament to 66 wins against just one defeat.
His tally of 14 majors brings him level with Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list and three behind the all-time record of Roger Federer.
Djokovic, the 2012 runner-up, dominated the first set and much of the second but could not quell Nadal.
On a hot humid day when temperatures on Philippe Chatrier court reached 30 degrees Nadal grew stronger as the final wore on.
"Every moment was crucial, all the points were so hard," Nadal said on court after the match. "Playing against Novak is always a big challenge, I have lost to him the last four times. Every chance I have to beat him it's because I have had to play to my limit. I feel sorry for Novak. He deserves to win this tournament one day and I am sure he will."
The Serb still needs a French Open title to become just the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam. He has now lost seven of his 13 Grand Slam finals. Nadal has only lost six out of 20, one of those defeats was to Stan Wawrinka in Melbourne in January. That clearly rankled.
"It's an amazing, emotional moment for me,” Nadal said. “I lost the Australian Open final this year when I had a problem with my back. Today tennis has given me back what happened in Australia."
Shaken by jeers
The 3-hour 31-minute duel ended on a sour note when Djokovic double-faulted on match point, shaken by jeers from the crowd after he had tossed the ball up and caught it before his second serve.
In a tense opening to their seventh Grand Slam final meeting, the steadier Djokovic, sporting a white cap against the fierce sun, pounced to break for 5-3, after Nadal put too much zip on a forehand.
The Spaniard had two points to break back in the ninth game but two more ballooned forehands kept Djokovic, who had even served and volleyed at 0-30, in the picture.
Djokovic took the opening set when Nadal, off balance and stranded behind the baseline, went long with a slapped backhand.
It was only the second time Nadal had dropped the opening set of a final in Paris, in 2005 against Mariano Puerta and in 2006 against Roger Federer.
However, Nadal regained the advantage with a break to lead 4-2 in the second set with an inside-out forehand stretching the Serb who could only net a desperate return.
But back came Djokovic for 3-4 after a sloppy Nadal service game punctuated by an untimely second double fault.
Djokovic saved a break point to go to 4-4, Nadal then held before Djokovic suffered his first serious lapse which was as sudden as it was surprising.
A wild forehand gifted Nadal two set points and the top seed converted with a merciless, crunching forehand.
Djokovic was rapidly wilting in the Paris heat as a 22-shot rally laid the foundation for a Nadal break for 2-0 in the third set, courtesy of a weary backhand volley into the net.
A love service game followed for 3-0 with Nadal having taken five games in succession.
Djokovic had break points in the fifth game as well as an 11-minute seventh game but had no response to Nadal's iron will and rock-solid defence.
As the sun disappeared, so did Djokovic's hopes as Nadal claimed the third set off a long forehand from the Serb.
Djokovic appeared to vomit early in the fourth set and he was feeling even worse when he was broken in the sixth game as Nadal again turned defence into scintillating attack.
In keeping their gripping eight-year rivalry, however, Djokovic ensured another twist with a break back for 3-4.
But Nadal clinched victory on Djokovic's third double fault with his second serve interrupted by a scream from the crowd.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-08