Nadal wins another French Open, again vs. Federer
PARIS—Rafael Nadal is back to being invincible at Roland Garros.
The top-ranked Spaniard won his record-equaling sixth French Open title by beating 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1 Sunday. The win improved Nadal’s record to 45-1 on the red clay in Paris—and to 6-2 against Federer in major finals.
“You can’t win something more special, no?” Nadal said. “It’s the highest-level of tournaments in the tennis world.”
Nadal won four straight titles at Roland Garros starting in 2005. But in 2009, the top-ranked Spaniard lost in the fourth round to Robin Soderling. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, that was the year that Federer won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.
But Nadal returned last year to earn a fifth title, and his sixth on Sunday put him even with Bjorn Borg for the most ever.
“For me it’s something very special (to) equal the six titles of Bjorn, for sure,” said Nadal, who completed his own career Grand Slam at last year’s US Open. “But for me, the most important thing is win Roland Garros, no?”
Nadal also put his name under Borg in the record books in another category. With Sunday’s victory, Nadal became the second youngest man, after the Swedish great, to reach 10 career major titles.
He’s also about six months younger than Federer was when he won his 10th.
“Ten Grand Slams is a lot,” said Federer, who is now 8-17 overall against Nadal. “He knows this. I know this. Everybody knows this. It’s really good for him.”
But Federer wasn’t ready to concede the title to Nadal just because he entered the match 0-4 overall against his biggest rival at the French Open—three losses in the final and one in the 2005 semifinals.
Federer broke Nadal in the second game of the first set and then held to take a 3-0 lead. Federer soon stretched that to 5-2.
But during the following changeover, Nadal called for a trainer to look at his left foot. After some powder was applied to the underside, Nadal ran back on court and quickly found himself facing a set point.
That’s when the match changed.
Federer played a backhand drop shot to Nadal’s right. Nadal ran for it, but couldn’t get there in time. It didn’t matter.
The ball was barely out, and despite a complaint from Federer, the call stood.
“I definitely thought that I got maybe a touch unlucky there and he got a touch lucky,” Federer said. “So it was a tough moment. That was one of my bigger chances of the match.”
Nadal then won seven straight games after that point, breaking Federer twice in the first set and then again to open the second.
Then, trailing 5-4, Federer found a ray of light in the dripping clouds above.
After trading breaks in the previous two games, Nadal had a set point at 40-30. But the Spaniard put a forehand into the net to keep Federer in the game.
A 10-minute rain delay then forced the players inside. Federer went into a trainer’s room and hopped up on a table. Nadal changed his shirt and checked the strings on his racket.
Shortly after play resumed, Federer won seven points in a row, breaking Nadal and then holding to 6-5, eventually forcing the tiebreaker.
Nadal did little wrong there, as the score shows.
In the third set, Nadal earned his fifth break in the third set to take a 4-2 lead. But Federer wasn’t done yet. He broke back at love and then held to 4-4 with his 10th ace. He broke again to 6-5 and held for the set.
“You’re not thinking of winning down two sets to love and 4-2, but you’re thinking of coming back and turning around the match,” Federer said. “All of a sudden, at 0-0 in the fourth set, you think, ‘OK, we have a match again.'”
It didn’t last long.
Nadal broke to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, and then again to make it 5-1, winning the final five games of the match.
“I just waited (for) my moment, tried to be there all the time,” Nadal said, “tried to put him in not easy situations all the time.”
Job done, again.