Rafael Nadal defeated rival Novak Djokovic in three sets to win his 13th French Open on Sunday and tie Roger Federer for most Grand Slam titles ever with 20.
Nadal dominated Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the 56th meeting between the two, which Djokovic now leads 29-27. Coming into the match, Djokovic had won 10 of the past 13 meetings between the two, including the past three matchups in Grand Slam tournaments.
But none of those numbers count when it comes to Nadal in Paris, where the 34-year-old Spaniard is now a stunning 100-2 in the French Open — 26-0 in the semifinals and finals.
Rafael Nadal’s 4-peat
It was the fourth straight French Open title for Nadal, who will have a chance to defend it again in May, provided the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t upend the 2021 schedule the way it did this year’s, forcing the French Open to move to the fall.
“Clear, today was for me. That’s part of the game. We play plenty of times together,” Nadal said on the court after the match.
Djokovic, the World No. 1, came out aggressively in the first game against No. 2 Nadal, putting the Spaniard on the defense and taking him out of his comfort zone along the baseline. Djokovic mixed in drop shots and lobs to keep Nadal running on the clay courts of Roland Garros and captured a 40-15 lead.
But Nadal fought back, getting the game to deuce and breaking Djokovic for the first of three times in the set. In all, Nadal capitalized on seven of 18 break opportunities on the day. Djokovic converted just one of five break-point chances.
Novak Djokovic off his A-game
The match was far from vintage Djokovic. In the first set, the Serbian hit 11 winners but had 13 unforced errors, in contrast to Nadal’s 10 winners and two unforced errors. Nadal won 64 percent of points on his service in contrast to 38 percent for his rival.
It was the first time Djokovic — himself a 17-time Grand Slam champion — failed to win a game in a set in a Grand Slam final.
Djokovic fought off a break point to win the opening game of the second set but still lacked the precision of Nadal, who hit 11 winners against four unforced errors. And while his win on service points increased to 51 percent, so did Nadal’s — to 71 percent — and Nadal didn’t face a break point in the set.
In the third set, the two players stayed on serve until the fifth game, when Nadal broke Djokovic with four quick points. But the Serbian fought back in the next game to put the set back on serve. But with the set tied at 5-5, Nadal managed to break Djokovic’s serve again to take a 6-5 lead and serve for the set, striking an ace at 40-0 for the win.
“It was a very tough match for me today,” Djokovic, 33, said of the contest that lasted two hours, 43 minutes. “Obviously I am not so pleased with the way I played. I was definitely overplayed by a better player today on the court.”
Nadal’s final numbers were fitting of a 13th championship He won 92 percent (12 of 13) of service games, hit 31 winners against just 14 unforced errors and won 67 percent (56 of 84) of his service points.
The first French Open for Nadal came in 2005, just two days after his 19th birthday, when he defeated Mariano Puerta of Argentina in the final 6–7 (6), 6–3, 6–1, 7–5. He said Sunday that this victory was especially special, given the “tough year” amid the pandemic.
“Roland Garros means everything to me. I’ve spent here the most important moments — or most of the most important moments — in my tennis career no doubt about that.
“For me, just to play here is absolutely inspirational and the love story that I have with this city and with this court is unforgettable.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)