Rafael Nadal won his record-setting seventh French Open title on Monday, defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in their rain-delayed final to break a tie with Bjorn Borg for most titles won in the clay court major.
Djokovic led 2-1 in the fourth set when play resumed after an 18-hour rain delay pushed back the conclusion of the final until 1 p.m. on Monday. He was quickly broken in the first game back on court but traded serves with Nadal to get to 5-5. Djokovic hit a loose forehand at 15-0, 5-6 and later double faulted on match point, making Nadal the most prolific champion in French Open history.
Nadal fell to his knees, embraced Djokovic and then climbed into the crowd to hug his family. It was an unusually raucous affair for the Nadal clan, a sign that the record-setting win and ending his funk against Djokovic, who beat him seven times last year, was a sort of cathartic tennis exorcism.
The Serbian was stopped short in his quest to become the first man since Rod Laver to win four consecutive majors. He had defeated Nadal in each of the previous three Slams. The rivals were the first to ever play in four Slam finals in a row.
Nadal had stopped a similar threat twice before. In 2006 and 2007, Roger Federer entered the Roland Garros final in hopes of winning the non-calendar Slam but was felled by the emerging clay court legend.
Sunday and Monday's match was just as epic, if not as thrilling, as the pair's U.S. Open and Australian Open finals, the latter of which went a record-setting 5 hours, 53 minutes. Nadal took a two-set lead and was up a break in the third. It appeared that his run to No. 7 would be routine. But Djokovic broke back and won an unprecedented eight-straight games against Nadal. By the time the Spaniard finally snapped the streak, a steady rain had turned Roland Garros' red clay slippery and play was stopped for the day. It seemed to be a disadvantage for Djokovic, who was taking advantage of the heavy, wet conditions that negated Nadal's topspin.
A light rain fell for a time on Monday. It wasn't enough for Djokovic to halt Nadal's run at history. The world No. 2 is 52-1 lifetime at the clay court major. His only loss was in 2009 to Robin Soderling. Nadal later admitted he was battling injuries and family problems at the time.
"For me the comparison to the great Borg is a great honor," Nadal told NBC's John McEnroe after the match.
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