PARIS (AP) – Rafael Nadal has caused so many others sleepless nights at Roland Garros. This time, though, it was his turn to do the tossing and turning.
The bad weather. The unpredictable bounces. An opponent, Novak Djokovic, who couldn’t miss.
It all kept flashing through his mind. And it was compounded by the fact that when he walked back on the court Monday, he would be protecting a slim lead in the fourth set – giving him very little time to get a wobbling game back on the rails.
Turns out, it was a case of losing sleep over nothing.
Nadal won six of the nine games played after the restart to close out a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Djokovic, cementing his name in the history books with a record seventh French Open title, one more than Bjorn Borg. Nadal also prevented Djokovic from becoming the first man since 1969 to win four straight majors, the same way Roger Federer got denied in 2006 and 2007.
Also against Nadal. Also on the clay.
“My mental part, probably, on clay is one of the most important things,” Nadal said. “Because you have to run, you have to suffer sometimes, you have to play with more tactics, because you have more time to think, to do things.”
The end of this one played out the way seven of the last eight of them have at Roland Garros: Nadal sliding through the gritty court, reaching for balls nobody else could think of getting, punishing his opponent and pressuring him into “unforced errors” that were really no such thing. Djokovic had 15 during the fourth set.
It was quite a different scene from the evening before, when rain turned the court into a sheet of near-mud, the tennis balls got saturated and every advantage belonged to Djokovic. He ran off eight straight games – who does that against Rafa on clay? – and Nadal was scowling, arguing with the umpires, asking to have the match suspended because Roland Garros was playing more like an unkempt public court after a storm than one of tennis’ hallowed grounds on an historically important day.