By Jane Voigt
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were competing in their tenth French Open this year, but only one has been successful — Rafael Nadal. And today he proved without a shadow of a doubt that he is the undisputed King of Clay. He defeated Djokovic to win his 9th Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Nadal has now earned 14 Major titles, which ties him with Pete Sampras. Nadal’s record in Paris moves to an incredible 66-1, too, his only loss coming to Robin Soderling in 2009. And from 2005-2014, Nadal has won a Major in every one of those years. He is the only one bestowed that honor. He has also beaten Djokovic six times now in Paris on his way to the title.
This was Nadal and Djokoiv’c seventh Grand Slam final and 12th meeting at a Grand Slam, a record for the Open Era. They were tied 3-3 in slam finals before today’s results.
“Amazing and emotional for me today,” Nadal said before the awards’ presentation. “Today the tennis give me back what happened in Australia. I cannot talk now; i’m too emotional.” As the Spanish national anthem played, Nadal cried.
Djokovic’s loss is heartbreaking. This is the only Major missing from his portfolio; and, his desire to win has been vocalized since he lost in the semifinals last year to Nadal. He hired Boris Becker to specifically help him center his mind when confronting Nadal on all courts, but most importantly this one. It worked, too, but not on Stade Roland Garros. Djokovic defeated Nadal in their four previous finals.
In French, Novak told fans, “Congratulations on your ninth French. I played with my most strength and capability. The fans are incredible. Thank you for your passion. Next year I’ll come back and try to keep winning.”
Djokovic won the first set in a definitively. Then, in the second signs of fatigue began. Serving to push it to a tiebreak, he was broken. This is when the match ran away from him. They had splits sets, which gave Nadal a critical mental edge. He unleashed his forehand and played with enough confidence to win in four sets: 36 75 62 64. Djokovic lost the last four points of the match, and double faulted to give the title to his opponent. Nadal has never had to play five sets to win Roland Garros.
“This is a big pleasure and bigger challenge of my career,” Nadal said on the podium, nodding toward Djokovic. “I’m sure you’ll win here in future. Today is incredible. Ninth trophy is very important for me today.”
Both men were obviously bothered by the heat and the stress of the occasion. Djokovic’s face looked hollow at times in the third set. He vomited twice and took sips of Pepsi to calm his stomach, which had been ailing him according to NBC. He said in his press conference, “[I] don’t know what happened with my health. I don’t feel good.”
The win from Nadal throws a chink in the record books in other ways, too. After winning the first set of a match Djokovic had been: 11-0 versus Nadal over the last five years; 35-0 in career finals; and 36-1 at Roland Garros.
The last time Nadal lost the opening set in this final was in 2006 against Roger Federer. Nadal also lost the first set to Mariano Puerta in 2005. In both years, Nadal won in four sets, like today.
Congratulations, Rafael Nadal. You are a champion once again.