Spaniard Rafael Nadal has beaten world number one Novak Djokovic in the French Open final to claim his 20th Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Nadal inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on his great rival, blasting Djokovic in straight sets (6-0 6-2 7-5) to tie Roger Federer with 20 Slam titles.
“I was fine. Everything was okay. I was ready for this match. It’s just that I was overplayed,” Djokovic said in the post-match press conference.
“I was beaten by a guy who was just perfect today,” he continued.
The match proved to be one of the most one-sided grand slam finals in the Open era.
Nadal, who has climbed to the top of the all-time list, used his victory speech to send a message of hope and positivity in the fight against COVID-19.
“We are facing one of the worst moments that I think we remember in this world facing and fighting against this virus,” he said on Eurosport.
“Just keep going, stay positive and all the very best. Together, we will go through this and we will win [against] the virus soon.”
Social media was sent into a frenzy after the roof at Court Philippe Chatrier, which made its debut at this year’s rescheduled Grand Slam, was closed just before the start of play.
Fans questioned which player would benefit from the indoor conditions.
Most thought it would favour the Serbian’s game against the 34-year-old Nadal, who was bidding for a 13th title on the red clay courts at Roland Garros.
Instead, Nadal adapted brilliantly as he has done all fortnight to the new brand of balls and the much colder and wet conditions at this year’s event which started in late September rather than its usual May-June slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stakes were high for both players in their ninth meeting in a Grand Slam final – they were tied 4-4 previously – with the added incentive of lifting another major trophy in the battle to be considered the men’s GOAT – the “Greatest Of All Time”.
“To win here means everything. 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,” Nadal said.
“This love story I have with this city and this court is unforgettable.”
Djokovic, 33, who had won five Grand Slam finals in a row since losing to Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 Australian Open, still leads Nadal 29-27 in career meetings but the scar of Sunday’s defeat will run deep.
The drop shots on the slow clay courts served Djokovic well in earlier rounds and he used plenty of them in his opening game on Sunday but Nadal ran most of them down, blunting the Serbian’s weapon and game plan.
Nadal made just two unforced errors in the opening set to hand his opponent a rare ‘bagel’. In the second set there was no letup in intensity either as he continued to hit deep returns to keep his opponent pinned to the back of the baseline.
Djokovic got on the board at the start of the second set after managing to save three breakpoints but Nadal maintained his iron grip by breaking the Serbian’s next two service games to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Djokovic, who was looking to win his 18th Grand Slam title, made a fight of it 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.
“Today you showed why you are the king of clay.” said a gracious Djokovic. “Today was a tough match, I was outplayed by a better player.”