Waiting to launch into a second serve on match point down, a yell
from the stands, followed by another, left a distracted Novak
Djokovic to fire down the most costly of double faults and see his
hopes of completing a career grand slam pounded into the red dust.
While Djokovic was left utterly dejected and with a strange sense of
deja vu, having also surrendered the 2012 final with a double fault,
he could only watch on in wonder as Nadal sunk to his knees in
triumph following a 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 victory.
"In matches like this every moment is crucial. Playing against Novak
is always a big challenge as I had lost against him the last four
times," Nadal told the crowd before being handed over the trophy by
Swedish great Bjorn Borg.
"For me it's amazing and emotional, I lost the final at Australia
this year where I had a problem with my back and that was a hard
moment. Today tennis gave back to me what happened in Australia."
Overcome with the emotion of cradling the Musketeers' Cup for a
record-extending ninth time, the world number one burst into tears.
His win was also accompanied by a deluge of eye-watering statistics.
He became the first man to win five successive Roland Garros titles.
His record in French Open finals stands at 9-0.
He has won a record 35 successive matches at the claycourt major.
He has won 90 of his 91 best-of-five-set matches on clay.
He owns a 66-1 win-loss record at Roland Garros.
Over the years grand slam champions in the caliber of Roger Federer,
Djokovic, Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Martin del Potro and
Carlos Moya have all tried - and failed miserably - to conquer the
claycourt phenomenon at a tournament one person suggested should now
be renamed "Nadal Garros".
Djokovic, who had come off second best to Nadal in five previous
Parisian tussles, did not even come close to ending that losing run
"It was a very emotional day and I gave everything. The trophy was a
bit too far out of reach this year but I will come back again and
again until I win it," a teary-eyed Djokovic told the crowd after
being given a prolonged standing ovation by 15,000 hollering fans.
It seems there is nothing that Nadal cannot control at his beloved
He had stated 48 hours earlier that he "cannot command the sun" but
after Sunday's forecast of thunderstorms failed to materialize, it
seems that the Spaniard's powers of persuasion also stretch to the
The hot weather meant the left-hander could count on his forehand
being "very fast and very powerful" which in turn would allow to him
add an extra zing to his already fearsome topspin.
Despite the conditions being to his liking, Nadal was strangely flat
and restless for a set and a half and raised hopes in the Djokovic
camp, which included coach Boris Becker, that perhaps his day of
reckoning had come.
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The world number one scorched those aspirations when he fired a
blazing forehand winner to break and take the second set 7-5.
It left Nadal roaring into the skies and the crowd jumping to their
feet in the hope that the duo who have battled through numerous
five-set thrillers would turn their 42nd meeting into another
heart-pumping display of skill and endurance.
It was not to be.
Djokovic was left feeling the heat, literally, as he slumped 0-3
down in the third and appeared dazed and confused for a second when
he slid off his chair during the changeover.
Dousing his head and arms with cold water and wrapping an iced towel
around his neck allowed the Serbian second seed to get back on his
feet but four games later his anger boiled over.
Following a backhand error, he slammed his racket so hard it lifted
off the ground and spun around 13 times before dropping back down to
the red earth again.
But wondrous shots, and not acts of petulance, win matches and it
was from only one man's racket such balls were flying off.
A looping forehand long from Djokovic on break point down handed
Nadal the third set and from then on there was a sense of doom
circling over the Djokovic camp.
"Luckily for me it was over in four sets because after that it was
heart attack for me," the champion's coach and uncle Toni Nadal said
after his nephew took his overall grand slam tally to 14.
"He told me when he took me in his arms to call the doctor because
he had cramps in his calf. We were lucky it ended in four sets."
There was nothing lucky about Djokovic's day.
A double fault on match point summed up the type of afternoon it had
been for a man playing in what turned out to be an unlucky 13th
grand slam final.
Having declared before the final that "Nadal's not unbeatable"
Djokovic was asked if he was any closer to working out how to beat
the claycourt king on his favorite stomping ground.
"If I was left hander maybe I would win the tournament," he quipped.
(Editing by Josh Reich)
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