Regardless of result, history would happened Sunday in the men’s French Open final. Either Rafael Nadal would win his 13th and tie Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam haul of 20, or Novak Djokovic would finally get his second Career Slam with an emphatic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph.
“I played at an amazing level of tennis,” said Nadal. “For two-sets-and-a-half I played great. I can’t say another thing. It’s impossible to have this score against him without playing great. I played a very good final. I played at my highest level when I needed to play at my highest level, so something that I am very proud of.
“Winning here means everything to me. It’s not the moment to think about the 20th title to equal Roger. For me, today it’s about the Roland Garros victory. It means everything to me. Most of the most important moments of my career have been here. I love this city and this court.”
The rain in the area and the condition cool and wet, the roof was closed which was thought to be an advantage for Djokovic, but it wasn’t or made no difference.
Djokovic, who had not lost to Nadal at a Slam in over six years, came out with a bit of dropshot-itis. The Serb had game points to hold his opening serve, but the dropshots went wayward and he was broken. Nadal held then broke Djokovic again as the the World No. 1 failed to find any sort of form or rhythm.
Rafa wasn’t fussed, he was all business and pressed onward rolling to a stunning 6-0 opening set — Djokovic worst set loss in the a Grand Slam final — and then broke early in the second.
Djokovic continued to flounder. His serve was off, the dropshot was taking the place of the groundstrokes, though his trusty backhand seemed to be finding the net more than the court.
Rafa took the second then went up a break in the third before Djokovic finally caught a little momentum. He broke Rafa and started to hit the ball better. But down two sets to Rafa in his house was just too big an obstacle to overcome. Nadal continued to play a near-perfect brand of tennis and a final ace sealed a startling victory.
“In Australia, [Novak] killed me, but today was for me,” said Nadal. “That’s part of the game. After all the things I have been through in my career in terms of injuries, without a great team and family around me, everything would be impossible.”
Nadal wins his 13th French Open, fourth without losing a set. And more importantly, he ties Roger Federer atop the Grand Slam leaderboard with 20.
“In terms of these records, of course I care,” said Nadal who also won his 100th career French Open match. “I am a big fan of the history of sport in general. I respect that a lot. For me it means a lot to share this number with Roger, no? But let’s see what’s going on when we finish our careers – we keep playing.”
Djokovic suffered his first lost match point of 2020, and took one of his worst beating in a Grand Slam final.
“Congratulations to Rafa,” Djokovic said to the 1,000 or so fans in attendance. “What you are doing on this court is unbelievable. Not just this court, but throughout your entire career you have been a great champion. You have shown why you are ‘King of Clay’. It was a very tough match for me today. I was not so pleased with the way I played, but also I was definitely outplayed by a better player today.”
Djokovic finished with 38 winners and a whopping 52 unforced errors over three sets. That’s averaging 2 unforced errors/game, which won’t work against Nadal. Meanwhile, Nadal finished with 31 winners to only 14 unforced errors and he broke Djokovic seven times.
“It didn’t work great today, let’s say. He was winning a lot of those drop shot points that were played by my side,” Djokovic said of the tactic. “I didn’t play so many in the end of the day. I did try tactically different things, but not much worked in the first two sets. I wanted to disrupt his rhythm, obviously. But he was ready. He was there, he was prepared. He was playing all the right shots today.
“I was probably rushing a bit much, trying to play shorter points,” he added. “I probably wasn’t constructing the points well. That reflected on the result. But that was also caused by him, by his amazing defense. He was getting a lot of balls back.”
Nadal won’t have to wait long for a 14th French title. The tournament will return in May. Djokovic will look to add to his total in Australia where Federer has confirmed his participation.
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