The left-hander sank to his knees after retaining his crown by defeating the Swiss 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-1 on the red clay in Paris. His victory ties him with Sweden’s Bjorn Borg, who won six Roland Garros trophies from 1974 to 1981, the highest tally in tennis’s Open era. Nadal received the Coupe des Mousquetaires from two-time champion Jim Courier.
“This is a very, very special moment for me,” Nadal, 25, said in an interview at the side of the main Court Philippe Chatrier. “I’ve won against the best player of all time. It’s a very emotional moment for me.”
Federer last beat Nadal in a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2007. The win extended Nadal’s head-to-head record against the right-hander to 17-8.
“He beat me again,” Federer, 29, said at the trophy ceremony. “Of course I’m sad, but I’m proud with how I’ve played in the past two weeks.”
Federer made 56 unforced errors, while Nadal had 27. The Swiss produced 53 winners, 14 more than his opponent.
Federer last won a major at the 2010 Australian Open, where his defeat of Britain’s Andy Murray extended his men’s Grand Slam singles title record to 16 trophies. Nadal has now beaten Federer in four French Open finals. Before yesterday, the two last met in a major final at the 2009 Australian Open, which was won by Nadal and reduced Federer to tears at the trophy ceremony.
Run of Wins
The second-ranked Novak Djokovic would have been the new No. 1, replacing Nadal, if he’d made his first French Open final or if the Spaniard had lost the final. The Serb won his second major title in Melbourne and went on to defeat Nadal in four tournament finals. No. 3 seed Federer beat Djokovic in four sets in the Paris semifinals, preventing him from tying John McEnroe’s record of 42 consecutive wins from the start of a season, set in 1984.
Nadal, the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, had started the season with a shot at becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam tennis titles at the same time. Instead, he exited the Australian Open after a ruptured thigh muscle hampered his movement in a quarterfinal loss to Spain’s David Ferrer.
Watched by former French Open champions Courier and Manolo Santana, Federer started well, occasionally serve-and-volleying and forcing Nadal into mistakes as he kept him under pressure with deep ground strokes.
Drop Shot Wide
Struggling to keep his shots inside the lines, it took the Spaniard 18 minutes before he got himself on the scoreboard with a service hold in the fourth game. Trailing 5-2, Nadal brought on the trainer, who cut back some of the tape strapped around his left foot during the changeover.
After Federer missed a set point on Nadal’s serve at 5-2 with a drop shot that landed just wide, the momentum shifted in the Spaniard’s favor. The lefthander won the next seven games as Federer committed a string of errors forced by the Nadal forehand.
Serving for a two sets to love lead at 5-4, Nadal squandered his first set point as a forehand hit the net and landed out.
After an 11-minute rain delay at 5-4, deuce, Nadal blew a second set point with a backhand into the net. The Spaniard raced to a 5-2 lead in the tie-break as Federer missed a few service returns. Nadal clenched his fist as he set up four set points with a backhand passing shot. His long-time coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, then rose from his seat to celebrate as his nephew took the set with a forehand winner.
Nadal had seemed on the way to a straight-sets victory as he broke for a 4-2 lead in the third set. Federer fought back to take the set with his 13th forehand winner. The Swiss, who had made 39 errors in the first two sets, committed only 7 mistakes in the third and hit 16 winners.
Federer was unable to maintain his level in the fourth set as he produced his first double fault of the match and handed Nadal the break for 3-1 with a forehand into the net. The Spaniard forced a double break for 5-1 as Federer dumped a backhand into the net. Serving for the title, Nadal won the match on a Federer forehand that went long.
Earlier yesterday, Bjorn Fratangelo won the boys’ singles by beating Dominic Thiem of Austria 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 on his first visit to Europe. The 17-year-old from Pittsburgh is the first American since McEnroe in 1977 to win the French title.
To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh at Roland Garros through the London sports desk at firstname.lastname@example.org