French Open 2014: Rafael Nadal lands ninth Roland Garros title with four-set win
Last Updated: 08/06/14 8:22pm
Rafael Nadal has conquered Roland Garros for a ninth time after coming from a set down to beat Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 in Sunday's final.
The undisputed 'King of Clay' has now won the French Grand Slam in five successive years and the victory brought him his 14th Grand Slam crown, equal second on the all-time list alongside Pete Sampras and three behind leader Roger Federer.
The loss meant that Djokovic failed in his bid to become the eighth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles.
After the two men shared two brutally tough opening sets under a hot sun, Djokovic visibly wilted under Nadal's weight of shot in the third before the Spaniard won in four, taking his match record at Roland Garros since his debut in 2005 to 66 wins against just the one loss, becoming the first man in history to win a major tournament 10 years in a row.
The top two players in the world were meeting for the 42nd time, more than any other two men in the Open era.
Djokovic's game matches up better against Nadal than anyone else's and it was he who struck first with a break for 5-3.
Nadal saved two break points, the first with a trademark curling forehand on to the line, but Djokovic showed his forehand down the line was pretty good, too, to bring up a third chance and this time his opponent just missed with an off forehand.
It was the first time Djokovic had won the opening set against Nadal at Roland Garros and the first time since 2006 the Spaniard had lost the opener in the final.
This has been Nadal's least dominant season on clay, the 28-year-old losing three matches in the build-up to the French Open for the first time in a decade.
Nadal hit back in the second set with a break for 4-2 but the world No 1 then handed the initiative right back with another wayward forehand.
He had a chance to make it three breaks in a row only to miscue a backhand, but when two set points arrived in the 12th game, Nadal took the first with a forehand winner, leaping and punching the air with delight.
The start of the third set was huge for Djokovic but he could not stop Nadal's momentum, netting a routine backhand volley to trail 2-0, and the Serbian began to look very weary in the heat.
He rallied and forced break points in the fifth and seventh games but Nadal held on and then broke once more to take the set when Djokovic drove a forehand long.
Djokovic had lost the third set easily in last year's semi-final before fighting back but he did not look like he had too much left.
And Nadal moved closer to the title with a break for 4-2 when Djokovic pulled a backhand wide trying desperately to send the ball beyond the reach of his opponent.
But just when his chances looked to be over, Djokovic hit back, a pinpoint return forcing Nadal into the error.
The Serbian pressed hard for another break but Nadal held on, beating his chest as he moved to within one game of victory.
And that was all he needed, Djokovic placing a forehand long to give up a match point and then serving a double fault after three hours and 31 minutes, just as he had in losing his first French Open final to Nadal two years ago.
"Congratulations to Rafa and his team, it is incredible to win this tournament nine times," Djokovic said.
"It was an emotional day. I have tried with all my power, my strength, my capacities but Rafa was the strongest on court.
"To my team: this trophy is not for us this year but we will try again and again."