Rafa reigns supreme: Nadal dismantles Djokovic in French Open Final masterclass
Rafael Nadal taught world number one Novak Djokovic a clay court lesson on Sunday winning 6-0 6-2 7-5 to secure a record-extending 13th Roland Garros crown and record-equalling 20th grand slam title. Alex Grant reports.
It was a final billed as perhaps the biggest of the Open era. Two great rivals, with their own pieces of history at stake, ready to do battle in the French Open final everyone had wanted from the moment the tournament began.
Novak Djokovic, the top seed, entered the match with a mightily impressive 37-1 win/loss record for the much interrupted 2020 campaign, with his only defeat coming courtesy of his US Open default. The Serbian was looking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the double career slam of winning every major title at least twice adding to his historic double wins at all nine Masters 1000 series events.
Rafael Nadal meanwhile, playing in only his second tournament post lockdown, entered the match looking to write yet more French Open history by winning in Paris for a record-extending 13th time. Such a victory would bring with it a record-equalling 20th grand slam crown, moving him level with his other great rival and friend Roger Federer.
And it was Nadal who made the better start, taking full advantage of an early barrage of Djokovic drop shots to break the Serb in the opening game. A tough but solid hold of serve followed and thus, the tone that much of the match would follow was set. Djokovic would push but Nadal, again and again, came up with the answers.
With the Spaniard’s shot selection keeping the Serb guessing and his forehand and backhand firing on all cylinders, two more breaks and two more holds of serve followed as Nadal, courtesy of a timely ace, wrapped up a lopsided opening set 6-0.
The second set seemed to be following much the same script, as Nadal set up break point opportunities in the very first game but as Djokovic dug deep to hold, it seemed the final might finally come alive. Nadal quickly snuffed out those flames however, successfully breaking Djokovic in his next two service games to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
The world number one regained his composure to hold and force the Spaniard to serve the set out, which Nadal duly did, holding to 30 and leaving him just one set away from history.
The third set began on a much more even footing, with the first four games going the way of the server. That was until the fifth game, when Nadal once again made his move, breaking Djokovic to love and taking what seemed like an unassailable lead.
But the world number one has never been one to back down from a fight and as Djokovic capitalised on the first drop in Nadal’s form to break immediately back, the Serb roared his delight, waving the fans to join him. A quick hold to 15 followed and the momentum was now swinging Djokovic’s way.
Nadal quickly righted the ship, however, claiming a gutsy hold before creating a break point opportunity in Djokovic’s very next service game. Djokovic again dug deep, saving the break point before holding to leave Nadal under the pressure of serving to stay in the set. And hold Nadal did, before once again setting about the Djokovic serve, forcing the Serb into yet more errors.
On break point, Djokovic’s first serve sailed long but as his second delivery landed, Nadal stopped. The Spaniard immediately pointed to the mark, which he believed proved the serve to be out. The umpire was quickly down from his chair and upon inspection, confirmed the Spaniard’s suspicious. The Serb could only stare in disbelief. It was indeed a double fault and the break came, providing Nadal the opportunity to serve for yet another French Open crown.
Djokovic, knowing it was kitchen sink time, threw everything at the Spaniard but much like throughout the majority of the contest, none of his shots found their mark, leaving Nadal with three championship points. He only needed one.
Sealed with a trademark lefty ace out wide, Nadal dropped to his knees, pumping his fists, almost in disbelief.
The Spaniard’s love for the sport has never dulled, never wavered and it showed again here, as he looked close to tears, lifting the famous Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for a truly mind-boggling 13th time as he improved to an equally astonishing 100-2 win/loss record at the French Open.
Nadal’s pink mask, showcasing the times in which we currently all live was soon removed in time for the Spaniard to pose for his trademark ‘bite’ of the trophy but the Spaniard was quick to send his support to all those currently suffering around the world as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, commenting:
“I want to send a message to everyone around the world. We are facing one of the worst moments we can remember, in our fight against this virus. We just need to keep going, stay positive and we’ll get through this together.”
Nadal was also keen to express his pride at levelling Roger Federer’s all time record mark of 20 major titles whilst making clear its not something that he lets bother him.
“I always say the same, that I would love to finish my career being the player with more grand slams,” said Nadal.
“But on the other hand I say, ‘OK, I have to do my way’. I did my way during all my career. Worked well. I’m not going to be thinking all the time Novak has this one; Roger is winning the other one. You can’t be always unhappy because your neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger boat or has a better phone.”
Losing finalist Novak Djokovic was quick to congratulate his opponent on his performance, stating:
“Congratulations to Rafa. What you are doing on this court is unbelievable. Not just this court, but throughout your entire career you have been a great champion.
“You have shown why you are ‘King of Clay’. It was a very tough match for me today. I was not so pleased with the way I played, but also I was definitely outplayed by a better player today.”
Nadal is due to make an announcement in the coming days over his tennis plans for the remainder of the 2020 campaign, with the Spaniard considering whether or not to play the ATP Tour Finals at London’s 02 Arena in November or end his season there and focus all his attentions on the next grand slam at the Australian Open in January.