Rafael Nadal, the king of the clay, won his 13th French Open on Sunday, defeating Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in straight sets. With this victory, Nadal has now matched Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam triumphs.
Everything about how this match played out was a surprise. First, it was thought that Nadal would be vulnerable coming into the French Open, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to take a six-month layoff this year. Additionally, this was the first time Nadal hadn’t won a clay tournament before playing in the French Open. Would that affect his play?
It did not. Nadal played calmly and confidently. On the other hand, Djokovic played like a shell of himself through most of the match. There was a lack of energy and precision that continually baffled the NBC commentators. They openly wondered if Djokovic was hiding an injury of some kind because they simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
What they were seeing warranted a lot of questions. Djokovic didn’t win a single game in the first set, the first time in his career he didn’t win a single game in the first set of a Grand Slam final. It ended up taking him over an hour to finally win a game, but didn’t give him any momentum — mostly because he was churning out unforced errors at an uncharacteristic rate. It took until the 13th game of the match to win his second game, but he still conceded the set 6-2.
While Djokovic struggled, Nadal was dominant. Djokovic threw everything at him that he could manage, but Nadal had no problem keeping up.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) October 11, 2020
THIS RALLY 😤
Nadal using all of his skills to win this point. pic.twitter.com/0smfKjjqtp
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) October 11, 2020
Djokovic rebounds, but too late
The third set is where Djokovic finally started to come alive, winning the first game and taking a 2-1 lead. Djokovic looked like he was getting some of his energy back, but Nadal was relentless. He came roaring back and won the next two games. Djokovic showed life again when he evened the third set 3-3, and so did the crowd. There had been little cheering due to how lopsided the match was, and when Djokovic finally began fighting back, the crowd was ready for it.
Djokovic took a lead in the third set, cutting down on the unforced errors while Nadal finally showed a little weakness. But the hole Djokovic had to climb out of was too big. He finally made it a real contest late, but he ran out of time to mount any serious comeback while Nadal won the third and final set 7-5.
If one play could sum up the entire match, it’s probably this one. Nadal was just dominant.
Nadal is now a perfect 13-for-13 in French Open finals, and for the fourth time ever he didn’t drop a single set during the entire tournament. He’s now the first man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title 15 years after his first one.
Federer congratulates Nadal
Federer welcomed Nadal into the 20 Grand Slam Victories Club after Nadal closed out his 13th French Open finals win. The two of them now jointly hold the all-time record for Grand Slam wins, and Federer paid tribute to the accomplishment of his friend and frequent competitor.
“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion. As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory. It is especially amazing that he now won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport. I also congratulate his team, because nobody can do this alone. I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”
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