Congrats to Rafael Nadal and his fans. The King of Clay won a record-breaking seventh French Open title this morning defeating rival Novak Djokovic 64, 63, 26, 75 in a rain hampered final.
When the match resumed this morning Nadal was down a break 2-1 in the fourth set. The Spaniard rallied breaking Djokovic and then earning a second break and the match when Djokovic double faulted down match point at 5-6.
Nadal wins his 11th Grand Slam title, he’s 52-1 at Roland Garros and his seven French Opens give him one more than Bjorn Borg. Rafa has also won at least one Grand Slam title eight years running. He also becomes just the 10th player in Open Era history to win 50 titles on the ATP World Tour, with 36 of his successes occurring on clay.
Nadal and Roger Federer are both still scheduled to play in Halle later this week.
Here’s what Nadal said after the win:
Q. Two very small questions. First, when you were sitting down, everybody was taking your photo. You picked up the trophy, and you were looking at the names on the trophy, counting them. Whose names were you looking at, yours or someone else’s?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I was looking at the winners. No, no, no, no. For me is very small, and I wasn’t counting. I just go year by year.
Q. Downstairs your Uncle Toni was telling us that he thinks that you are unlucky to be playing in this era of Djokovic, Federer, you. Is that how you see it? Do you think you’re unlucky to be in such a fabulous era for tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL: I feel very lucky to achieve all what I achieved until today. I have great rivals, but, you know, even if it’s good era of tennis, playing against fantastic players, no, I’m more than happy to enjoy matches like I had. I enjoyed a lot the final of Australia, today. I suffered, but I enjoyed.
A lot of important finals for me, a lot of important matches that I was able to enjoy against fantastic players like Novak, like Federer, like Andy.
For me, you can feel unlucky or lucky, both.
Q. Congratulations, Rafa. You had a hard two part final. Since last night, how did you prepare technically, physically, morally? Analyze the situation where you lost eight games in a row on clay, which is very unusual. How did you handle it this morning?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, the conditions were really unusual, too. No, the ball was heavier than ever. At the end, the bounces start to be bad last half an hour of match yesterday.
In my opinion, the conditions were much more favorable for Novak than for me. At the same time, I am playing against the best of the world, the best of the world with good conditions probably for him. He played, in my opinion, fantastic that eight games in a row.
He didn’t have mistakes. He return fantastically well, and he did probably everything very well in that part of the match.
That’s true that I lost meters behind the baseline. I really felt that I wasn’t able to push him back like I did, especially at the beginning of the match and then for moments.
He was able to push me back almost all the time. I felt that I was in a completely, you know, negative positions almost every time on that period of match.
So, for me, the last game was very important after eight games in a row, losing the last one and before the stop. That game that put the 2 1 on the score was very, very important.
Q. Congratulations. Were you happy that the match was stopped last night? Was it easy for you to sleep last night?
RAFAEL NADAL: Seriously, I was very nervous during all the night. I was a little bit anxious to play what remain of the match. But even if was clearly good thing for me, I stop the match yesterday, because with that conditions, well, seriously, the last couple of games, the conditions of the court was not the right ones to play a final of a Grand Slam, you know. We had to stop.
Anyway, I felt that was a positive stop for me. I really felt that the stop against David Ferrer in the semifinals with set and 4 1 was not positive for me. At the end was positive for me. And the stop before that we come back to the court that with 6 4, 5 3, I felt that was not positive for me, too, neither.
That’s true. The last stop was important for me, especially because the conditions of play was not the normal ones in this court.
Q. Congratulations. You’ve won this title seven times. Can you talk about that? Novak said you’re definitely the best male player to ever play on this surface. Can you address that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, thanks for the words, what Novak said.
I don’t know if I am the best or not. I really I am not the right one to say that. The only thing is I have probably one of the best results ever probably in this kind of surfaces, and for me is great.
For me is a real emotional day, win another time here. Sure, the seventh is important because I am the player who has more today, but like I said yesterday: that’s after. For me, the important thing is win Roland Garros even if it’s the first, second, third, or seventh, no? That’s what makes me very happy, very happy the way that I played today, because I played much more aggressive.
In my opinion, I started very well yesterday the first three games, played fantastic levels. But later, after that, I felt that I didn’t play fantastic yesterday after that first games, no?
I felt that today this set I played better than yesterday. My serve especially worked very well, and my forehand, my movements, were more aggressive.
Q. You say that you enjoy winning every title, but the emotions, when you went up to be with your family in the player’s box, they seemed very strong this time, maybe even stronger than normal. Was it not that way?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, was that way, sure. Was important victory for me. I really spend a really hard day since yesterday. You know, I am playing this match since Friday afternoon, so is a long time preparing the match. Yesterday with all the stops and today, I really felt tired and nervous before the match.
My feeling was I wasn’t ready for the match one hour ago, two hours ago, two hours before the match, and I felt ready to go on court three minutes before. That’s the first moment since we stop the match yesterday the first moment that I really felt that I am here to play and I feel confident to try was three minutes before go on court, because for the rest of the time I was a little bit too nervous, more nervous than usual probably for the situation.
Q. Djokovic lost with you making a double fault on match point in Rome. Then double fault on break point at 3 All.
RAFAEL NADAL: In three of them.
Q. Three of them. And then one in first game of the second set and match point today. Do you think something change in his attitude that last year when he was invincible it would never have happened, or do you face him like he’s a little bit more tense than he was, for instance, last year or not? Do you have a feeling that he’s changed or not?
RAFAEL NADAL: The things are like this, you know. You cannot expect to save all the moments fantastic well. You cannot expect to be in every tournament playing at your best and saving the important moments with fantastic shots.
Seriously, if I say something wrong about Novak probably gonna be a big mistake, because don’t forget that he won in Australia, he won in Miami, played semifinals in Indian Wells losing 7 6 in the third, playing final in Monte Carlo and final in Rome and final here.
So his season has been great, and the double faults, that’s only coincidence, in my opinion. Don’t forget that last year he saved unbelievable match in the semifinals of US Open. This year he saved two unbelievable matches at semifinals of Australian Open and final of Australian Open.
In this tournament he saved two sets down against Seppi. He saved four match points against Tsonga. You cannot expect save all the time like this, playing great like he did in the match points against Tsonga.
He’s doing fantastic, but is impossible for anyone play every time perfect.
Q. Last year this time you won here, and then you didn’t win another title. Do you think your level is higher now than it was a year ago, and will you be able to carry it over to other surfaces especially with success this time against Novak?
RAFAEL NADAL: I won four titles already this year in my favorite court. That’s clay. I don’t have that chance to play in my favorite court the rest of the season. That’s the thing. No, no, no. That’s the calendar. The calendar says we only have this period of time on clay, and I don’t have more chances to play on clay.
Don’t forget that I play the last five Grand Slam finals in a row. That’s not a victory, that’s not a title, but that’s fantastic results.
I don’t remember last year, but after here I played I played very bad in probably Montreal/Cincinnati. Yes, I played a great US Open, and I played probably bad in Shanghai and in the end of the season in the World Tour Finals, but in the Davis Cup final I played great another time.
You have to find your moments, like I said. With Novak I say the same to me. Is not possible to be perfect every time, be 100% in every tournament. And I gonna try to keep having chances to win, produce chances to win. I produced a lot of chances to win last year, but I lost almost every one.
Hopefully I will keep playing well, and I will keep having chances to win and try to win.
Q. I’m from Germany, and the German fans are a bit worried you might not go to Halle now. Can you say if you decided yet?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I decided few months ago that tomorrow I will be there, and I will be practicing tomorrow afternoon there. We play doubles on Wednesday and singles on Thursday if no one injury comes this night. (Laughter.)
Q. At the age you were last week, Bjørn Borg decided he didn’t want to play tennis anymore. The way you feel right now, how many years do you think we have left of you?
RAFAEL NADAL: I really don’t know how many more years I will be here playing. Is impossible to predict the future, no? I will be here until my physical respect me, until the injuries, you know, respect my chances to keep playing and until my mind stays with motivation, with passion for what I am doing. Hopefully for a long time. I don’t know.
That’s what I will try, and that’s my goal. I work hard every day. I wake up every day with enough motivation to go to practice and to keep improving.
When that change more days than usual, probably will be the time to say, Good bye, Guys, and see you in a lot of things.
That’s not the case today, I hope (laughter.)
Q. You’re always very humble, but if I could ask you to brag a little bit, what would you point to as an explanation for why you have been so successful on clay, and particularly on here, so much better than everyone else?
RAFAEL NADAL: In my opinion, not particularly here. On clay, in general, yes, because I didn’t win more titles here than in Monte Carlo or Barcelona, won more than Rome, yes.
But in general, all the tournaments that I played on clay I had a good success the last eight years. I don’t know. I think I worked hard all my life. I think my game naturally adapts very well to this surface. My movements are probably the right ones to play here, and my natural shot probably is the right one to play on clay, the normal conditions, no?
So then probably my mental part probably on clay is one of the most important things, especially on clay, more than in the rest of the surfaces, because you have to run, you have to suffer sometimes, you have to play with more tactics, because you have more time to think, to do things.
Probably the reason is because I always was scared to lose. That’s why I go on court every day against other opponent with the full respect, knowing that you can lose and you can win.
Then I think I was very focused for the last eight years, because winning as much as I did in this surface the last eight years is not because I played great every time. Is impossible to play great every time. Because when I played so so, I was there mentally. The mental part was there 100%, so probably that’s why the reason.
THE MODERATOR: Spanish questions, please.
Q. Congratulations, Rafa. So apart from this magic number, seven, after all these years when you were fighting hard, you managed to get the support from the crowd. Did you learn French?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I spent quite a lot of time in France, and I understand French very well when people speak it slowly. And don’t forget that the French language is very close to Catalan language, so this is probably the reason why I tried.
Maybe I made a lot of mistakes, but I tried and people understood me, I think. And the most important is that the crowd was great. They supported me. I want to thank the crowd, because it’s a fantastic feeling. The crowd was really supporting me, and that’s also why I want to make efforts and speak French.
Q. I’d like to know if you think that this final today was the most difficult final in the seven you played here because you were playing against No. 1, because the conditions were appalling, and because the match was stopped.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I had already played against the No. 1 on quite a few occasions, and Federer was No. 1 for several years. So this is not the reason.
It was very difficult because well, I think we need to analyze this match a bit more and analyze all the others, but this was a very complex final except for the last two sets.
I had lost three Grand Slam finals in a row to him. That’s why it was important for me to win, and this is why I was a bit more nervous and there was a lot of emotions.
But the result was important for me, just as important as my final against Federer in 2006 or against Puerta. But when I played Puerta, I had three set points, which was not the case here.
In 2010 it was difficult, but I didn’t suffer too much. I was quite focused. Last year was a difficult match with a lot of emotion. I had had a few losses before. Actually, this year I had won three finals on clay before, which gave me a lot of self confidence.
Of course I have great respect for the No. 1 on the other side of the court, but as I say, these are great moments, and in an athlete’s career, you need and remember those moments.
I feel better than last year. Things change. We all have ups and downs, but at the end of the day we were very close during that final.
Q. As compared to the previous years, what is the salient point from this final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, from a tennis standpoint, be realistic. In 2010 I had won the final without losing any set, as in 2008.
This year I played better than in 2010, and this year, all along the tournament, if you take everything into consideration, I qualified for the final without losing any set. I just had a tiebreaker against Almagro.
As for the rest, I had won quite easily to David, Monaco, Almagro, and when you play that well, means that you’re in great shape. That’s a fact.
Then, for the final, I was obviously a bit more nervous than usual. I started playing very well in the beginning, 3 Love, 30 Love. I made a mistake. Then the set became more complicated. Then my game was no longer as clean as it used to be. I made a few mistakes.
I think the three first games yesterday were my best level, and today when we resumed, I was slightly more aggressive with my forehand and I moved well on the court. I was more aggressive.
I don’t like talking about the tournament. I like to talk about the clay season. But I can’t deny that this was probably my best season on clay. I won three tournaments, and I managed to make it to the final of the fourth tournament before I lost my first set.
So Rome, Monte Carlo. You all know it’s not easy to achieve such result without losing one set.
So of course I’m very happy.
Q. I wanted to ask you a question. This awards ceremony in Paris is quite special with the National Anthem being played. It’s quite special. What do you feel? You were probably feeling great emotions. What came to your mind at that moment?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, as I said before, there was a lot of emotion. There is always in such moments. You don’t know if you will ever win another victory. You don’t know if this year is going to be the last one.
I achieved it this year, but as time goes by, you give more value to those very precious moments. When you play at a very high level with such beautiful seasons look at what happened last year, for instance. I lost three Grand Slam finals in a row. And you realize that you’re about to win, as in the US Open, and I felt I could win the match and I didn’t.
In Australia I was pleased with the tennis I played, yet I was a bit disappointed, as well, because I had the opportunity of winning. I have four opportunities in a year, and you can’t expect to play your best tennis all the time. And to win a Grand Slam, you have to play your best tennis.
There are very few opportunities, so you have to make the most. If I had lost a fourth final, this would have been very difficult for me. So I felt it really was worth it giving my best, given everything I have achieved since the beginning of the season or even since the beginning of my career.
When you lose, it’s because you don’t deserve the title. So in my mind, this was the final I had to win. This is why there was a lot of emotion.
Q. I remember during the US Open when you said, I know what I have to do. Now that you’ve won all those titles here in Paris, what kind of feelings do you have, or will you start feeling something in a few hours’ time?
RAFAEL NADAL: Of course I’m very happy. I want to think my Uncle Toni, my family, my friends, all the people who supported me. After the US Open when I said, I know what I have to do to win, of course I know. Now the question is: Am I capable of doing that? There is theory and there is what you do. So I just wanted to give a bit of context to that sentence.
In Australia I was not in a very good shape, mentally speaking. I could have won, but for mental reasons, as I had lost, I was probably not in the best mental status. Now I’m here, I made it, I did everything I could to win this match. For me, it’s great emotion.
Maybe at the beginning of the year you start thinking, okay, what’s the tournament I really want to win and I want to start playing in a very good shape? Well, for me, it’s this one.
I also know that my season is going to be good moving on, because I’m in great shape, but I’m very pragmatic, and I need to prepare for the others.
Q. Did you sleep well last night or did you see the match in your head or did you watch the soccer team?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, I watched the soccer match in the locker room. I didn’t see it when Italy scored a goal, but I didn’t want to watch my match nor read any articles or anything, so I looked at TV, the news a bit, and the football game.
Then I watched a series, and strangely enough, I had no movie to watch. So I went to bed at midnight. Then I looked at chapters of Sengoku and that was it, because I had no movies. So I read a few chapters of my favorite comic book. I read those three times, and I fell asleep.
Here’s his on-court speech:
Rafa going into the stand to celebrate with his box:
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