Nadal beats Federer to take sixth French open title
Rafael Nadal equalled Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles with a 7-5 7-6 (7/3) 5-7 6-1 victory over Roger Federer in another titanic final between arguably the two best players the game has ever seen.
The momentum swung one way then the other like a pendulum, but although Federer threatened a stunning comeback, Nadal stepped things up again in the fourth set to seal victory on his first match point after three hours and 40 minutes.
The start was a surprise as a nervy Nadal, who had beaten his rival in three previous finals here, returned to something like the form he had shown in the first week as Federer raced into a 3-0 lead.
The Spaniard, who needed to win to prevent Novak Djokovic becoming number one in the world, quickly snapped out of it and began to fire on his forehand but Federer was relentless in his attacking and he brought up a set point with Nadal serving at 2-5.
Had he taken it the outcome of the match may have been very different but a drop shot landed just wide.
Nadal sensed this was his opportunity and, having not threatened the Federer serve until that point, he unleashed a trademark forehand to take his first break point, before breaking again in his opponent's next service game.
The match-up of styles has always been in Nadal's favour, with his high topspin causing a particular problem for Federer's one-handed backhand, and the Spaniard tightened his grip with another break in the opening game of the second set.
Nadal was now playing superbly and, although Federer stopped the rot after losing seven games in a row, he just could not match his level.
Gradually he fought his way back in, though, and after saving break points in the fifth game, he broke back for 4-4 as his rival threw in a rare error.
Thunder rumbled in the background as Federer fought to move in front for the first time in the set but he could not manage it, Nadal breaking again as a backhand from the Swiss landed wide.
That left the top seed serving for the set but there was more drama to come, and this time it was not all on the court. Nadal let one set point slip away and a sudden downpour meant play had to be suspended with the score at deuce.
It was the first rain break of the whole tournament but fortunately it was very brief. Federer knew it was now or never and, after saving a second set point, he broke again.
Both men then held serve to force a huge tie-break. Federer needed it, Nadal wanted it, and it was the Spaniard who managed to hold his nerve, winning the first four points and going on to take it 7-3.
It was surely an impossible task now and it looked even more so when Federer was broken to love in the sixth game of the third set only for the 29-year-old to show there was still some fight left by responding in kind.
When the Swiss played his best tennis, it was difficult to see how he could be losing the match, but 56 unforced errors told their own story against the game's most relentless opponent.
There were none of those in the 11th game, though, as Federer raced to 0-40, and he took the second break point to a huge roar. It must have seemed a long time since he served for the first set but this time there was no twist.
Nadal was still a heavy favourite, although the odds lengthened somewhat when Federer promptly created three break points at the start of the fourth set.
The Spaniard saved them all, and from then on he did not look back. Federer held for 1-1 but he was broken to love in the fourth game and then some more Nadal magic took him to within one game of victory, which he clinched when the Swiss fired a forehand long.
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