Rafael Nadal has won his ninth French Open in Roland Garros on Sunday. This is his fifth straight title in nearly a decade-long streak broken only by Roger Federer in 2009. This year, it was World Numberr 2 Novak Djokovic who attempted to depose the king of clay but it was not to be.
The match was concluded in four sets with the first going in favour of the Serb. This showed Novak an opening and he knew he had a chance. This might be the reason why it was all the more emotional for him when the match ended in four sets in an anti-climactic double fault by Djokovic. Nadal never looked back after the first set loss and ended it at 3-6,7-5,6-2,6-4.
Nadal's nine titles are the most ever French Open victories by a single player. And his winning streak of 35c matches is also a record. He has now won a total of 14 grand slams equalling Pete Sampras' own record. They now lie second only to Federer. However, Nadal is not finished yet his career is far from over and he still has Roger Federer in his sights.
"I was so strong. I really wanted to defeat him, I suffered quite a lot, but I found solutions. When there were problems cropping up, I managed to find the solutions when the moments were very difficult. I succeeded. I managed to win the match and the tournament," said Nadal after the final.
Djokovic knew that this year, despite Nadal being the clear favourite to win, he had a clar chance of an upset, Nadal has not exactly had a stellar clay season. He lost to David Ferrer in Monte Carlo and then to Nicolas Almagro in Barcelona before winning over Ken Nishikori in Madrid but only after the latter pulled out due to an injury while Nadal was already a set down. Clearly, the king was vulnerable but Novak failed to capitalise.
The past four matches between the two were won by Novak and Nadal knew he had a target on his back. He knew that Novak would come in confident and he said as much during his on-court interview after beating Andy Murray in the semi-finals.
"I know to play against him. I need to play to my limit, I need to play aggressive. But is always the same thing, no? To play aggressive and to play those shots, you need to be confident, you need to feel the ball. I think in the second set that the dynamic of the match changed. I was able to play more aggressive. I did better things ... It was very important for me to win that second set. Without that, I don't know if I have this trophy with me now," explained Nadal.
A very emotional Djokovic stood for a long time in the middle of the court as he was awarded his trophy. The crowd showed great appreciation to his valiant effort by cheering and applauding him for as long as it took him to compose himself before giving his speech in French. Nadal himself seemed very moved and allowed Novak his time in the limelight before standing up to accept his own trophy.
"When I play against Rafa, it's always exciting match for us to play and for crowd to see, so they get also involved in the match. In the end of the day, it's very emotional. A lot of tension going on the court. You can feel that. I cannot find excuses in the crowd. I cannot blame anybody. It's all part of the sport. To be able to be appreciated by the fans the way I was in the end of the match just gives me more strength and motivation to come back here and try 'til the end of my career, hopefully to get at least a title," ended Novak.