RAFAEL NADAL claimed his 13th French Open after producing an extraordinary performance to pummel his way past Novak Djokovic and equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 grand slams.
The two great rivals now sit atop the men’s all-time standings after the Spaniard’s brilliant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over world No.1 Djokovic.
Nadal has dominated for so long at Roland Garros nothing should surprise but the level he produced against a man who had not lost a completed match all year was breathtaking.
Nadal hit 31 winners and made only 14 unforced errors, leaving Djokovic, who had been hoping to become the first man in the open era to lift every slam trophy at least twice, unable to find any answers, even failing to win a game in the first set despite playing well. The third set was at least competitive, and ensured Djokovic avoided his worst slam defeat, but Nadal would not be denied.
Having started the tournament by saying the cool and damp conditions, coupled with heavier balls, would make this the most difficult French Open to win for him, Nadal ended it without losing a set.
The conditions had been expected to favour Djokovic, particularly when rain before the start prompted organisers to shut the roof, and all the indications were this would be one of their lung-bursting, play-to-a-standstill epics. But, rather like last year’s Australian Open final, when Djokovic crushed Nadal, this was a virtuoso display by a man on a stage he has made his own.
He was virtually flawless — serving accurately, defending superbly, unleashing his big weapons at the right moments. ‘A very tough year but to win here means everything to me,’ the 34-year-old said.
‘I don’t think today about the 20th to equal Roger, to me today is just a Roland Garros victory. I spent here most of the most important moments in my tennis career. The love story I have with this city and this tournament is unforgettable.’
Djokovic said: ‘Huge congratulations to Rafa. What you are doing on this court is unbelievable. Today you showed why you’re king of the clay. It was a very tough match for me. I was definitely outplayed.’
Grand slam titles
1.= Roger Federer 20
1.= Rafael Nadal 20
2. Novak Djokovic 17
‘I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa. As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. It is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th grand-slam victory. I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us’ — Roger Federer
■ 55 — Minutes it took Djokovic to win his first game. After losing the first set 6-0, he finally got off the mark by holding serve at the start of the second