A Paris ‘love story’ for Rafa

A Paris ‘love story’ for Rafa

PARIS • Rafael Nadal demolished world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the French Open final to claim a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title yesterday.

With his record-extending 13th triumph at Roland Garros, world No. 2 Nadal is now tied with Swiss Roger Federer as the player with the most men’s singles Major titles.

“Winning here means everything to me. I don’t think today about the 20th and equal Roger on this great number, today is just a Roland Garros victory and that means everything to me,” the 34-year-old said after beating Djokovic in a Slam final for the first time since his win here in 2014 to edge their finals head-to-head 5-4. “This love story I have with this city and this court is unforgettable.”

He was the early aggressor as he choked Djokovic to win the opening set in brutal fashion, having made only two unforced errors.

But the early going was more competitive than the scoreline suggested: eight of the first 10 games went to deuce, with Nadal saving three break points in that period.

Still, it was the first time Djokovic had failed to win a game in a set since the Rome final last year against Nadal and the first 6-0 set he had conceded at a Major since his quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem in Paris in 2017.

The Spaniard then kept a firm grip on a subdued Djokovic in the second set under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic, who remained on 17 Grand Slam titles, rebelled in the third set, breaking back for 3-3, only to drop serve on a double fault in the 11th game before Nadal went on to bag his 100th victory at Roland Garros with an ace.

It was his fourth French Open title without dropping a set.

Nadal also became the first man in the Open era to win a Slam title 15 years after his maiden one here.

“Today you showed why you are ‘King Of Clay.’ I have experienced it,” Djokovic, who entered the decider 37-1 for the year, said after the 2hr 41min clash.

“Obviously, I am not so pleased with the way I played but I was definitely overplayed by a better player.”

The Serb racked up 52 unforced errors, compared to his rival’s 14.

He took 48 minutes to win his first game and needed another 40 minutes to claim a second.

Nadal won 106 of 183 points – or 58 per cent – to record his 27th win in 56 meetings against the Serb.

Djokovic had won his last five Slam finals but Nadal was not upset on his turf despite a new stadium design, the roof and the lack of spectators amid the Covid-19 crisis.

“I want to send a message to everyone around the world,” added the Spaniard.

“We are facing one of the worst moments that we remember in this world, fighting against this virus. Keep going, stay positive. We will get through this and we will beat the virus soon.”