Nadal flying high on cloud nine
Published 09/06/2014 | 11:00
As Rafael Nadal posed for photographers his hands were so gripped by cramp that he could barely hold the trophy, but the image could hardly have been less symbolic.
The 28-year-old Spaniard already owned the record for the most titles won at a single Grand Slam tournament and maintained his extraordinary hold on the French Open last night when a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic took his tally of Roland Garros titles to nine.
After all the doubts over Nadal's ability to maintain his remarkable domination on the Paris courts, which had been fuelled by Djokovic's victory in the Rome final three weeks earlier, the world No 1 was an emphatic winner.
In becoming the first man to win the title five times in a row he took his current winning streak here to 35 matches.
"For me, this is amazing, an emotional day," Nadal said. "I lost the final of the Australian Open this year, when I had a problem with my back. It was a very hard moment, so today gave me back what happened in Australia.
"Playing against Novak is always a big challenge for me. Every time I only have the chance to beat him if I play to my limit."
Nadal's 14th Grand Slam title puts him joint second with Pete Sampras on the all-time list, which is headed by Roger Federer with 17. It was also a huge psychological blow to land on his greatest rival. Djokovic needed victory to reclaim the world No 1 ranking and, more importantly, to complete his collection of Grand Slam titles.
There were times during the match when Djokovic stared intently in the direction of his entourage. Extending his record to five defeats in his last six Grand Slam finals was not the outcome he had been hoping for when he appointed Boris Becker as his head coach at the end of last year.
Djokovic made a large number of mistakes in the match. "I wasn't playing at the level that I wanted, especially in the second part of the match," he said.
Djokovic drew first blood as Nadal was broken when he served at 3-4, hitting a forehand wide. The Serbian went on to win the set. Nadal broke for the first time in the sixth game of the second set, only for Djokovic to break back. Serving at 5-6, however, Djokovic went 15-40 down, upon which Nadal took the set with a forehand winner.
By the start of the third set the momentum was with Nadal. The Spaniard broke to go 2-0 up when Djokovic made a hash of his volley. At the subsequent changeover the Serb had a look of resignation on his face.
A further break of serve saw Nadal take the third set and Djokovic was broken again in the fifth game of the fourth set.
The world No 2 responded by breaking back, but Nadal was not to be denied. When Djokovic served at 4-5 and 30-30 a careless forehand gave Nadal match point. Djokovic then missed his first serve and his second serve was long.
- Andy Murray sees his partnership with Amelie Mauresmo as fresh and exciting and does not believe working with a woman will be a big change.
The Wimbledon champion hired the Frenchwoman to be his new coach, initially for the grass-court season.
Murray said: "She's a fantastic player. Just from speaking to her, she's very calm.
"I think it's exciting, something fresh and hopefully it works."