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Nadal stands alone as king of Paris

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Tom Fordyce | 15:05 UK time, Monday, 11 June 2012

History was always going to be made in the red dust of Roland Garros this week, but that inevitability didn't make the moment any less dramatic or draining when it finally arrived.

In fighting through the exhaustion, emotion and cold drizzle to win the French Open 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5, Rafa Nadal ensured that this time it was he, not his electric adversary Novak Djokovic, who required the record books to be erased and re-written.

Seven French Open titles, by the still remarkably tender age of 26, puts Nadal alone in the Parisian pantheon, clear of a record of Bjorn Borg's that once looked impossible to surpass. Djokovic, stoic in damp defeat, must wait another year at least to join those elite players who have held all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

If it rained on Rafa's parade in Paris, it was an equally unexpected coronation for those watching rapt court-side or glued to the battle via their televisions in the UK.

A French Open final hasn't been delayed until the Monday since Ilie Nastase's stroll to the title in 1973, which may explain the empty seats around Court Philippe Chatrier at the resumption and why ITV were showing Loose Women on their main channel, Tight Between The Men pushed way out to ITV4.

Neither was the match quite - quite - the eyeballs-out, all-time classic most had hoped for. Those frequent rain delays made it feel like watching a great film interrupted by breaks for TV adverts and the 10 O'clock news, the narrative disrupted and the tension dissipated just as the plot was threatening to sweep us away as it had during the Australian Open final five months ago.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have now met five times in big finals. Photo: Getty

Maybe we have been spoiled by that near six-hour Melbourne marvel. The peaks, as we have come to expect of these two remarkable men, were as lofty as ever. But that the match was lost on a double fault was perhaps fitting when the unforced error count was the key statistic that separated the two.

Djokovic almost matched Nadal in clean winners (34 to 39), first serve percentage (59% to 62%) and total points won (116 to 125). He was more ruthless on break points. But in shipping 53 errors to the Spaniard's 29 he created the openings that a competitor like Nadal does not give up.

Free points, when facing a player with Rafa's armoury, equate to suicide. His forehand alone is enough to trigger surrender.

On days like Monday, when it cut and chopped Djokovic to pieces, the gasps of astonishment in the crowd were mixed with shrugs of Serbian sympathy.

It is a frightening weapon, a horror to scare children to sleep and give grown men nightmares. At the same time it is a thing of beauty, admired and cherished by everyone except the poor unfortunate facing it down across the net.

That it was the result most wise men expected, despite Djokovic's top seeding, should not detract from the magnitude of Nadal's achievement.

His magnificent seven at Roland Garros means he now has 11 Grand Slam titles overall, just one behind Roy Emerson, three behind Pete Sampras and five away from the record of 16 held by Roger Federer.

How many more French Opens can he win? Time and form remain on his side. Three years ago only tendonitis looked like stopping him, but even that debilitating knee condition looks to be in check, if not beaten.

He dropped just one set en route to this latest triumph, and that on Sunday as the heavy rain tethered his topspin forehands temporarily to the wet clay. Since he first set foot on these famous courts he has amassed 52 wins and only one loss, a half-century that neatly accompanies his 50 career singles titles and $50m in career prize money.

Borg, his predecessor as the king of clay, was a fitting icon of his era - long hair, tiny shorts, a laconic rock star pin-up for playboy times.

Nadal is equally symbolic of our own age: a player at hyperspeed in a non-stop world, physique carved by obsession, a dominance built on power and ruthless application of superior strength.

As he celebrated on Monday by climbing up into the crowd in search of his uncle Toni, his vanquished opponent sat upright in his chair, staring intently at the plasters on his fingers rather than the cavorting up above.

It was the result that most wise men expected despite Djokovic's battling performance. Photo: Getty

Djokovic will see these as crumbs, but in extending Nadal to almost four hours he had given him his toughest French final yet. To win eight games in a row against the best player ever to step foot on clay, at his peak, is a little miracle all of its own.

He will also know, once the immediate disappointment fades, that Paris was just another chapter in a rivalry which should illuminate the men's game for many Grand Slams yet to come.

Five times these two have now met in the big finals. Even after this defeat Djokovic leads the series. With his Wimbledon crown to defend in a fortnight's time he may not have to wait long for his revenge.

For those of us on the outside, watching spellbound as another layer is added to a rivalry that already has so much, there is delight in what has gone before and relish at what may follow.

These are momentous times for Nadal, but they are also remarkable for men's tennis - for its quality, its depth and its triumvirate of complementary heroes at the top of the rankings.

If all three of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer will leave the game among its all-time greats, on Monday it was another storied band whose ranks Nadal symbolically joined.

The trophy that he raised with tears in his eyes, the Coupe des Mousquetaires, pays tribute to the four Frenchmen who lit up world tennis 80 years ago.

Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste, 20 Grand Slam singles titles between them, were immortalised in sporting myth as the Four Muskeketeers. In Nadal, they have their D'Artagnan .

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    djokovic seems impossible to beat, if not for the rain delay i think djokovic would have won, its funny djokovic and murray were at the same level in 2009, and somewhat 2010, even though djokovic won a slam at 2008 he wasnt playing like now, and fast forward 2 years djokovic is one of the greatest players ever. Where as murray conteding to be a winner. But it was funny it you watched ITV coverage of the french open, mark pecthy said he woudl consider djokovic to be the greatest player of this era and surpassing federer and nadal. really with 6 grand slams, he woildnt be in my top 10 for sure in goat.

    But i think nadal got lucky, and maybe who knows this might just brake djokovic knowing that he cannot beat one player at certain grand slam, i dont think his that strong mentally.

  • Comment number 2.

    Djokovic really pushed Nadal today, and the 3rd and 4th sets were great to watch. Extremely high quality tennis, but Rafa is just so tough on clay. Winning 7 French Opens, that's astonishing, and only Sampras has won that many at a single slam. Surely one of the greatest achievements in our sport. However, I believe it would be wrong to compare Nadal and Borg, or in fact even compare players from different eras. Both are legends of our game, but seriously does anyone think Rafa could have played as Jim Courrier said, with wooden rackets, and get the same RPM in his shots? Its futile to compare different eras, as the sport has evolved in so many aspects over the years. That's why, I would never proclaim Federer as the GOAT either for similar reasons. For me, it is a privilege (but sometimes a pain) to see Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer battle it out and continue to push each other.

    And as far as Djokovic is concerned, I'm convinced that he will win the French Open at some point in his career, though it was a great enough achievement to put himself in the position to win four in a row in the first place. Congrats to Rafa, and as lets bring on Wimbledon!!

  • Comment number 3.

    As usual with mens Tennis currently, fantastic stuff. Two magnificent athletes competing, and the loser so gracious in defeat. I used to prefer football, boxing and horse racing, but currently mens Grand Slam Tennis is the pinnacle of sport in my opinion. It has been so since Nadal burst on to the scene to challenge Federer.

    It didn't live up to the Aus Open, but how could it? Congratulations to both players.

  • Comment number 4.

    He is the king of Paris. For the first time in his career, though, you'd have to say Nadal got a bit lucky at Roland Garros. This time yesterday, Djokovic was in his head and well set to take the final into a fifth set.

    But the exception surely proves the rule, that he is the king of clay by virtue of this being the first time in seven French Open triumphs he's been helped by the elements. And even then, only the World #1 on top of his game could live with him, no-one else was anywhere close.

  • Comment number 5.

    1.
    At 17:57 11th Jun 2012, badfella0807 wrote:

    , its funny djokovic and murray were at the same level in 2009, and somewhat 2010, even though djokovic won a slam at 2008 he wasnt playing like now, and fast forward 2 years djokovic is one of the greatest players ever. Where as murray conteding to be a winner.
    ________________________

    Yes, because Nole discovered he had a gluten allergy and took steps to resolve the problem, allowing him to ascend to the level of Nadal and Federer.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have noticed people mentioning the elements got Rafa off the hook forgot that there were 2 rain delays, and if the first rain delay never took place Rafa would have won in straight sets. The first rain delay allowed Djokovic to compose himself again....

    But in my opinion Rafa is phenomenal on Clay just as Djoko is phenomenal on hardcourts I think Rafa had some remnants of mental block on Djoko and I think winning the French Open will help banish that to some degree. I think it only makes for an interesting Wimbeldon coming up and the Olympics..

    Lets not forget there is still Roger and Andy Murray and Del potro all lurking and waiting....

  • Comment number 7.

    Great result for Rafa - he was the best player by far in the tournament some of his play was simply awesome. Djokovic did well to put up such a spirited fight, whilst not playing at his absolute best - but for the rain who can say how the match would have progressed.

    The final was a bit tetchy at times but Djokovic was gracious in defeat - Rafa's complaints on Sunday may well have been justified but he is in danger of getting a reputation as a serial whinger.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with number 6, mikepalmer to an extent, I think the rain undoubtedly helped Novak, but the rain breaks helped nadal, but had there been no rain at all, I think Nadal would have won comfortably. (I am a Nadal fan). And I definately agree that Nadal still has a mental block on Djokovic, it will be interesting to see if that is there at wimbledon, and where the Fed and the others are.

    At number 5, northernsuperspur, I don't think Djokovic's gluten allergy affected his attitude, forehand and serve, though you could argue he couldn't train as much. His gluten allergy discovery and the changes in his diet have allowed him to reach rafa's level of fitness and go toe to toe with him, but the way he saved match points serving them out or with massive forehands is a big lesson for Andy Murray who too often hopes his opponents will beat themselves. I thought Djokovics 2nd serve on match point was incredibly brave and shows why he's so hard to beat, he puts winning and losing in his own capable hands

  • Comment number 9.

    at northernsuperspur than why hasnt murray found his weakness or his problem, its simple, hearing novak and nadal before the final, both were saying they are going to play aggresive, when have u heard murray say that. murray is just a pusher, his forehand is weak, he gets all worked up playing average players, I didnt see roger djokovic or nadal get worked up beofre facing each other. murray is going to win the queen tournament but who is there, the top three are going to halle open. Another meaningless title to add

  • Comment number 10.

    These 2 guys are just such incredible competitors. Has there ever been 2 men competing with each other who are so determined not to lose. They really have an amazing will to win.

    Congratulations to both

  • Comment number 11.

    @ 1 You mean if not for the rain delay Nadal would have won in 3 sets. Djokovic is slowly reverting to his pre-2011 form. The last year saw him reap the benefits of his gluten-free diet but now he looks more and more ordinary with each tournament he plays.

    Nadal is the best clay court player of all time. To achieve what he has during the time of Roger Federer is all the argment one needs to include him along the all time greats (number of GS titles aside). The monster of a forehand he has is made for the Roland Garros surface it seems. Even in the heavy wet conditions he was able to burn Djokovic with it almost at will.

    What's next? Nadal and Djokovic should contest the next 4-5 GS tournaments before one of the young guns makes a breakthrough (my hope rather than expectation). I wish every professional player the best of health but if it came to be that one of the top 2 suffered some injury it could be Murray's chance to shine somewhere along the way.

  • Comment number 12.

    The weather. Something us Brits love to discuss. It always plays a part in any open air sports event. I don't even like sports day at school in the rain! But it turns up on the day of the event just like Rafa and Nole did. I was hoping for a classic epic match with a Rafa win and wanted to enjoy the performance of both players. In what mood or confidence they turn up on the court with will be theirs personally and will differ every match. This makes the excitement as we didn't know who'd win, not even over night were we sure.

    Rafa likes playing in hot sunshine, Nole had issues with the rain in his contact lenses, that is awful you cant see when your contacts are swimming. Rafa won, great but the match was spoilt for me my Nole smashing up his bench seating. May be it is me but I don't get this display of violence. Role models for kids, ambassadors for the game forget those, he just looks aggressive and disrespectful.

    I can't wait for Wimbledon I hope these two meet again, I don't know how they will turn up for the match with confidence or doubt. I don't know what the weather will be like but we will get great tense tennis.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well done to Nadal for his record. I would love Murray to win but he is playing in an era when there are simply better players. Hewitt only won at Wimbleton as he was in the Sambras - Federer gap. Herman suffered similarly being in the Sampras era. Murray is just not good enough but amazing athelic just the same. Not enough credit is given to those who live in such great eras where being merely 3rd or 4th best is not good enough due to the brilliance of the best two players.

  • Comment number 14.

    nadal is one of the greats but he needs to beat nole on hardcourts(11-5 to nole) if he is to pass feds slam total,i would be stunned if murray wins a slam with these 2.fed isnt going to win another as he cannot and could never keep up with nadal,now nole has his number.yes fed is getting on a bit but people were saying he was the favourite for the aussie open and a bigger favourite than nole here before the events happened.and the fact he won titles in london and indian wells.sorry but no more slams for fed best he can hope for is a final due to a off day or a injury to nole/rafa in the semis.

    has nadal ripped up noles parking space in his head,im not so sure he played fantastic and won 8 games in a row comfortably,if it wasnt stopped(should of been it was the correct decision) i think he wins in 5 nadal was seriously rattled.

    i cannot wait for wimbledon and the olympic gold medal match,who have you got, nadal or nole for wimbledon? i cant decide

  • Comment number 15.

    Excellent win for Nadal over Djokovic, although I am at the point where I now refer to them both as the 'bouncing ball boys' as they both are near the 20 bounces per serve (an astonishing 38ish bounces for a 1st and 2nd serve).
    Djokovich was definitely on the up in the 3rd set before the rain came to Nadal's rescue. I believe that he has the measure of Nadal when it comes to the mental side of the game. He out Nadals, Nadal!
    The only player I can see still succeeding against Djokovic is Roger Federer even though he was well beaten this time on clay, I hope to see a rematch on grass. Federer still has something to offer I am sure.
    Lastly, it is an impossibility to compare the Perry's, Hoad's, Budge's, Rosewall's, Laver's and my personal favourite, Bjorn Borg to the present crop However I do feel that this top 3 at the moment are difficult to better. During Borg's twilight years (when he reached the age of 24), we had Connor's, McEnroe and Borg. Now we Have Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. That is a reasonable comparison.

  • Comment number 16.

    The rain helped Djokovic, period. With the ball wet and heavy Nadal couldn't get the topspin which he uses to devastating effect. Is it coincidence that the arrival of rain signalled an 8-game loss by Rafa? Djokovic was the happier of the two to carry on under those conditions. Tennis is not played on a swamp, as this could give one player an advantage over the other. The arguement both were playing under the same conditions is ridiculous as each player has a different style of play. In football terms, a side like Barca who like to keep the ball on the grass would find it difficult to play in rain, while a side like Stoke who keep it in the air would thrive. Both teams will be playing under same conditions, but the difference in styles suits one over the other. Its that simple. Rain helped Djokovic even have a sniff, or it'd been over in straight sets.

  • Comment number 17.

    Quote - "Rafa won, great but the match was spoilt for me my by Nole smashing up his bench seating. May be it is me but I don't get this display of violence. Role models for kids, ambassadors for the game forget those, he just looks aggressive and disrespectful."- rather like when Nadal lost the 3rd Set and threw the ball at the umpire? Anyone who does not see Nadal his unsporting gamesmanship & just all-round bad attitude when it aint going right, then I suggest you watch him more often than a few times a year when he's on terrestial TV. Thank God it wasn't been played on the blue clay, he'd threaten not to turn up next year (after getting beaten).

  • Comment number 18.

    Well done Nadal, although a shame Djokovic didnt really turn up for the first few sets. Horrendous first service percentage and number of unforced errors. Clearly the king of clay, wonder if he can finally get a tour final win this year? Only big blip on his record.

  • Comment number 19.

    Nadal is a great player, no doubt, probably one of the greatest ever. However a great champion in my opinion he is not. All his chirping to the umpire whenever things aren't going his way, his faffing with the trainer to disrupt his opponents rhythm when under the cosh and constant timewastibg when the pressure is on.

    He can give the nicey nicey 'humble man' act all it's worth once he has won but his true character comes out in the heat of battle and he's a long way behind the Federers and Sampras' of this world. His antics would be better suited to the football field but I like to think that the great tennis champions are better than that win at ALL costs attitude.

  • Comment number 20.

    a look back at nadal's 7 french open wins http://bit.ly/LEtaiZ

  • Comment number 21.

    I think it is a bit Rich to focus on Rafa's complaints at the umpire in this FO and say it a usual habbit of his. Those were not optimum conditions to play tennis fine he threw the ball at the umpire but he was registering his displeasure at having to play such a heavy ball coated with clay in rain. to say it is usual behaviour of him is an exaggeration.

    When Federer played Del potro in the finals of the US open He was getting rattled and remember he swore and showed his annoyance at the umpire, during this french open when del potro was beating him he pracically asked the crowd to be quiet..

    They are all human beings and have emotions running through them. Just that I could say when Djoko beat Tsonga at the Australian open for his first grandslam he took an injury timeout when Tsonga was in the ascendancy...

    I think it is childish to cheapen any of these guys wins be it Roger, Rafa or Novak...

    They are fantastic Tennis player and also Human!!! Lets enjoy the fact that they are playing around the same time...

  • Comment number 22.

    I have a lot of respect for Nadal as a competitor but agree with some of the comments about his sportsmanship and temperament when things aren't going so well during matches. I think his reaction to the blue clay in Madrid is a disgrace and just smacks of being a bad loser just because he can't dominate in the way he can on other clay courts. As Fed commented at the time it's not so long ago that tournaments had vastly different surfaces and players had to adapt week by week, so a bit of variety in a surface makes a nice change. It is no coincidence that surfaces in general have all homogenised toward a similar speed that has helped Nadal and Djokovic, hence these two leading the calls for it to be changed for next year. The worst I've seen of Nadal, however, was during the World Tour Finals vs Berdych a few years ago. Nadal left a shot that he thought was going long. After no call, the umpire overruled (well after Nadal had left the ball so it did not affect his decision to leave it in any way) but a Hawkeye challenge showed that it had hit the back of the line. When the umpire quite rightly awarded the point to Berdych Nadal had the biggest hissy fit I've seen in many years and refused to play on until the referee was called for him to carry on arguing his case. He finally resumed, but his attitude - especially given that he had been totally in the wrong - was childish and embarassing. Great player, great winner, not such a great role model when things aren't going well.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don´t know if people were watching a different match to me but if it hadn´t started to rain and cause the court to become heavy and slippy (also dangerous for players who could get serious injury) then Nadal (who won the first 2 sets relatively easy) would have won the third just as easily.
    People also seem to forget that when he was struggling Djokovic looked to the staff shrugging his shoulders to get the game stopped. It was stopped then. This was to the advantage of Nole which is normal. Those who are down usually benefit from such a stop.
    Nole also behaved in his pre 2011 manner of throwing his racket, muttering to himself and to his team and the famous breaking of his bench.
    OK. Rafa struggled then but due to the state of the court and the balls - who wouldn´t when it affects your game so dramatically. He didn´t throw a ball at the umpire but sent it to a ball boy to pass to the umpire so he could see the ball. He did also talk to his team to explain what was happening.
    But I really do think that the umpire should have been well aware of the state of court and balls and it shouldn´t have been up to a player to have to tell him.
    The match was stopped which it should have been before. This time Nole didn´t want it stopped as he was ahead in the 4th set ...but he wanted it stopped when he was struggling.
    It is NORMAL for both to want events to be to their advantage and any of us in their position would be the same.
    We can´t criticise either of them for trying to stop play. But, Nole was far more disrespectful and stroppy.
    Anyone who says that Rafa is not a sportsman or role model in any way is clearly mistaken and clearly doesn´t watch this young man.
    I am British but I live in Spain and can tell you that he is well known for being an excellent sportsman and rarely does he complain on court. When he does it is usually well justified.
    It wasn´t the classic we all hoped for but I don´t see Nole as the unstoppable force he was last year. But he is still brilliant for sure.
    BRAVA RAFA. ERES EL MEJOR.

  • Comment number 24.

    Rafa may now be the greatest ever player on clay but he also lays claims to being the worlds worst buyer of underwear, 7 years and he still can't find undies he is not constantly pulling from his bottom.

  • Comment number 25.

    @19
    You are clueless. Nadal plays the way he plays because it suits him - just like every other player. Nadal likes slow and methodical, guys like Agassi and Rusedski like speed that's why it was easy to get under their skin when they were around (particularly Rusedski). But the point is each player plays the way it suits them best - its not gamesmanship.

    You (still @19) obviously don't watch enough tennis - to say Nadal is arrogant. Where does that leave Federer reminding us how great he is and at every chanc and Djokovic ripping t-shirts and screaming arrogantly when he wins matches?

    If we are not clear yet - you are clueless...

  • Comment number 26.

    Let´s not forget Federer has broken rackets, called balls that are in, out. Told people in the stands to shut up. Go on youtube and you can find as many as you like. He complains a lot more than Rafa or Nole. So enough nonsense about sportsmanship.
    Nadal complained about the blue clay a year ago, before the tournament and after every single match, not just the one he lost. There is a reason for it. Just ask Del Potro who´s knee got injured in Madrid and ruined his french open. Nadal finds the surface very bad preparation for Roland Garros. It´s not winging. Imagine Rome being a hard court, no one would show up because it interrupts rythm. If of course you´re not a contender for the french, then you couldn´t care less about the surface.
    In the heat of battle all of us show emotion and all of us get caught out at least once for something you may regret. To this day, not once has Rafa thrown a racket or cursed into the air, something not even Federer can say, and Nole destroyed his bench and yet we all know he is kind hearted and humble. Rafa was entitled to his lash at the officials, if you take yourself seriously then you feel like you have to say something, because in my opinion it was an awful decision to let them play like that for an hour. They are in it to win it. At the end of the day he is a humble man, as is roger, as is Novak, who have done great deals for the sport. They all have charities and they are all great champions.
    Some of the shi.......you have to read on this thing...honestly

  • Comment number 27.

    thefireroom: at last someone with true tennis perspective.

    People seem to attack those they dislike or are envious of and forget that their favourite player has also more than once been caught doing things which are questionable.

    How many rackets has Roger broken? How many times has he told someone in the stands to shut up? As amazing as he is, very few times has he truly had to dig deep to win, and when his dominance began to decrease, he proved just how temperamental he is on court

    Nocak destroyed the bench the other day, something no one expected. He is a bit of a show off. He loves the camera. In the past he was prone to a bit of pesimism. At the end of the day he is a great champion and a gracious loser.

    Nadal, people like to attack his winges. I find them entirely justified. He played for an hour under substandard conditions. The match should have never been played then. Of course he was furious. The blue clay. He complained last year, before and during the tournament. Ask Del Potro what he thinks. He injured his knee there and lost to federer at the french because of it. Nadal should not play madrid because its awful preparation for french open clay, simple as.

    Murray, likes to curse out loud all the time. Watch him live and you best out earmuffs on your child.

    At the end of the day, all these guys are saints when compared to any footballer out there

  • Comment number 28.

    @22
    The issue with the blue clay in Madrid was that it had NOTHING to with tennis. They wanted blue clay to be different, to have something everyone else did not and of course for better television viewing = more exposure = more money - simple. Sure Nadal AND Djokovic complained. I guarantee Federer would have complained if they died the green grass of Wimbledon to blue to 'spice' things up.

    Madrid is Nadal's home tournament (almost) - that's why he was so upset about it.

    Completely agree with 23. Anyone who works within the ATP can testify to Nadal's humility and grace on and off the court. Those who know little about tennis seem to make sweeping statements based on watching a few hours a season - crazy....

  • Comment number 29.

    To those people suggesting that Nadal was lucky because of the rain break...what you haven't considered is the fact that the rain is precisely what gave Djokovic his advantage in the first place. That rain and wet clay put extra weight on the ball and made it difficult for Nadal to generate as much topspin, so the ball didn't bounce as high on the other side, making it easier to play for Djokovic.

  • Comment number 30.

    Great match, though I definitely think that the balance was finer than the scoreline suggested. Jim Courier on ITV said that, even in the first couple of sets, Djokovic was winning the real-estate battle if not the points battle, and I have to agree. He was territorially bossing Nadal at his own baseline game but just wasn't converting the winners. There were times in the third set when the two elements were in sync with each other when Nadal looked, quite simply, helpless against the Djokovic onslaught. And that was on clay! Djokovic just seems to have a game that blunts Nadal's weapons in the way that Nadal blunts Federer's (and I'm an out an out Fed fan so am not biased towards bigging up Novak, merely observing). I think Rafa was very lucky that the play was stopped on Sunday as, with the damp taking all the speed and spin out the ball, he was really up the creek and I think actually Djok would have taken it. But Rafa was helped by some characteristically crazy French organisation (why, oh, why would you start the match at 3.15 pm knowing that rain was expected, that they'd have 6 hours' daylight at best, and that these two went at it for nigh on that long on a hard court in January, so God knows how long they'd need on the red dirt?!) and the break really saved him. As on the Sunday, it took Djok a while to get warm and by then it was too late, but to say the momentum was with Djok when play stopped the previous day is an understatement. Still, I was kind of rooting for Nadal as I think Djok's game is simultaneously extraordinary and somehow rather dull, even though you can't argue with its efficacy. And while we're here - and here's the point I really wanted to raise - can anyone tell me why everyone was making such a deal out of Djok standing on the cusp of potentially holding all four slams at once as though to be in that position was a totally unique achievement in the modern era? Wasn't Fed in the same position 2005-06 and 2006-07 and Nadal in 2010-11? Was it just that they felt he actually had a realistic chance of beating Nadal in Paris in the way they never thought Federer could? Or am I missing something? Granted, he's an incredible talent, but I don't quite get why he's being discussed as a singularly amazing talent by winning three slams in a year which Fed did three times and Nadal's done too. And as a parting shot, Rafa needs the final word in serious congratulations - seven French Opens (and the French has to be the hardest, most gladiatorial slog of a contest of all the slams in that it's sort of like playing in treacle, meaning the balance of technique/strategy/physical strength/mental toughness needs to be perfect and at an incredibly high level) is an unbelievable achievement, and has to go down as one of the most truly impressive feats in the history of the sport, and will probably never be beaten (except by him).

  • Comment number 31.

    And just rereading that I can see how the first part might raise the hackles of Nadal fans so I want to be clear that I of course understand that the reason Nadal won is because of his amazing clay court skills and his incredible defence/attack balance, and that it was only at times when Djokovic managed to subdue him and get the upper hand. But when he did he really did, and I think with the conditions working against Rafa (i.e. the damp nullifying the spin and pace on the ball) the gap really began to show. But ultimately Rafa won the match fair and square and his performances against everyone he played were extraordinary. Definitely the best clay-courter of all time and no-one other than Djok even pushed him (or could have pushed him, really - had Fed won the SF I think he would have come badly unstuck in the final, as much as it pains me to admit).

  • Comment number 32.

    And that is ALL he is! Rafa IS the King Of Clay BUT he is NOT and NEVER WILL BE The King Of Tennis! The way he cried like a baby yesterday when he couldn't handle the conditions, not even as a professional, surely makes him The King Of Moan too and The King Of Luck because had play not stopped Rafa would have been dreaming of the blue dirt because when Novak did turn up and play he was the BETTER player!

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 19

    Totally agree with you. Champion Of Clay - definitely - but a "true" Champion Of Tennis, Rafa is NOT! I personally felt that his "arrogant" and "selfish" behaviour yesterday was disgusting and proved that he was in my own opinion an undeserving champion. The ironic thing is Rafa has built a reputation for being able to "cope" with and adapt/adjust to any circumstance, condition, surface and situation under pressure in an admirable and inspirational manner. I'm afraid that reputation is extremely false. We saw Rafa's true colours as a sportsman yesterday and in Madrid after the whole blue clay controversy!

  • Comment number 34.

    @ 18

    Would Rafa be The King Of Clay had Novak turned up in the first two sets? I seriously doubt it! You could see that when Novak did turn up in the third set, Rafa had no answers. Rafa wasn't just moaning about the weather and the officials, he was moaning because he knows that Novak is better than him and that Novak was playing better than him!

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 27

    "Nadal, people like to attack his winges. I find them entirely justified. He played for an hour under substandard conditions. The match should have never been played then. Of course he was furious. The blue clay. He complained last year, before and during the tournament. Ask Del Potro what he thinks. He injured his knee there and lost to federer at the french because of it. Nadal should not play madrid because its awful preparation for french open clay, simple as."

    So, did Novak not have to play in the substandard conditions for an hour?

    Yes, Novak did break the chair but he was angry at himself. Rafa was angry with everyone and everything but himself. He was angry at the weather. He was angry at the umpire. He was angry with the tournament referee. He was angry with Novak because he was playing better than he was, he was adapting to the conditions unlike Rafa - there seemed to be more rain coming from his eyes than the sky! There is a huge difference between Nole's behaviour and Rafa. Nole does not seek to disrupt his opponent whereas Rafa does.

    Oh...and ask Berdych and Federer they think of the blue clay!

    Besides, it had nothing to do with the clay and it's colour. There was something wrong with the foundation upon which the clay is laid!

  • Comment number 36.

    @ 30

    What a great comment! No matter what you think of the man, you cannot deny Rafa's achievement! Though, I do have to throw in a sneaky lob and suggest that had Borg not quit at 22/23, with his 5 RGs, would Rafa's achievement be just that and not a record-breaking achievement!? Still, it was a sneaky lob and as I stand at the net asking the question, Rafa hits one of his passing shots!!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    @ 25

    I am sorry but you are clueless. How is Djokovic shirt-ripping a mark of arrogance? It is first and foremost a mark of celebration and a mark of passion. And Roger is far from arrogant. Just check out how many sportsmanship awards he has one compared to Rafa. Roger isn't just a better player, he is a better personality!

  • Comment number 38.

    Hmmm, this article conveniently ignores the fact that Nadal was unravelling, quickly, before the rain came. If it had not interrupted play it looked as though Djokovic was going to win sets 4 and probably 5 quickly. Reminiscent of When Henman lost to Ivanisevic, or when Sampras was in dead trouble against a blasting Phillipousis at Wimbledon, when suddenly Philli got injured.

    The rain effectively made this 2 or 3 best of 3 sets. Are we really sure Nadal can beat Djokovic over 5 sets? When Nadal gets tired and Djoko gets his timing, the serb is the better player. Nadal's style of putting all his energy into the power of the shot and court coverage was helped by the regular breaks the rain gives him. As soon as he meets someone who stands up to him over a longer time he faulters.

    And why did Nadal complain so petulantly when the rain made the balls heavier? Because he knows that the clay set up is suited to his talents but it just shows how if u changed some of the parameters of tennis suddenly he is not effective, he has no plan B. So if we changed the balls at Roland Garros or regulated the power of the rackets, Nadal wouldn't dominate, a greater range of shots would be required and that is where Djoko is king. Which is why, as you are claiming Nadal is an all time great, he now cannot really beat Djokovic on any other surface and his record minus clay doesn't compete with Federer or Sampras.

  • Comment number 39.

    HT-Hotspur @ 36

    "Though, I do have to throw in a sneaky lob and suggest that had Borg not quit at 22/23, with his 5 RGs, would Rafa's achievement be just that and not a record-breaking achievement!? Still, it was a sneaky lob and as I stand at the net asking the question, Rafa hits one of his passing shots"

    ------------------------------

    Rafa doesn't have to hit one of his passing shots as you have made an unforced error there mate.
    Borg did not quit at 22/23 (he did at 26), but kudos to him, he won 6 RGs rather than 5

  • Comment number 40.

    Nadal threw his petulant tantrum yesterday and the French were happy to give in because they love this brand of anti-tennis latins are so proud of. So much for fair-play, Djokovic would have won if it the match had carried on. Nadal's tactical tantrum won him the trophy yesterday.

    Nadal is not a great, he gets a yearly free slam here because he's been trained like an animal to win on clay, which happens to be the slowest surface ever and where you can't win anything if you try to play positive and aggressive tennis.

    Nadal won 7 here, yeah, great job. But his record outside that is useless, so you wonder what's the point of holding a slam at RG when it pretty much means that he'll have a red carpet all the way to the final and actual players like Federer, Djokovic, Del Potro and others are not even in his half of the table, so he gets to play only one of them. They should just hand the trophy over to him and let him munch it for 2 weeks.

  • Comment number 41.

    30. At 02:17 12th Jun 2012, bullhill1564 wrote:

    And while we're here - and here's the point I really wanted to raise - can anyone tell me why everyone was making such a deal out of Djok standing on the cusp of potentially holding all four slams at once as though to be in that position was a totally unique achievement in the modern era? Wasn't Fed in the same position 2005-06 and 2006-07 and Nadal in 2010-11? Was it just that they felt he actually had a realistic chance of beating Nadal in Paris in the way they never thought Federer could? Or am I missing something? Granted, he's an incredible talent, but I don't quite get why he's being discussed as a singularly amazing talent by winning three slams in a year which Fed did three times and Nadal's done too.

    -----------

    Bullhill, the fact that you are suggesting that Novaks being on the cusp of winning all four in a year is not that great an achievement shows how spoilt we are :) I mean you are comparing his achievement over the last year to what the two greatest players of all time did. Novaks achievement might be better still than what Fed did in 05-07 and Rafa in 10/11, given he had to beat Federer and Nadal en route to being at that point. Im sure had Rafa and Fed won their fourth GS on those occaisions it would have been rightly hailed as monumental. Perhaps it is also in part because he had more of a chance to beat Rafa then Roger did, although I did not think he had a serious chance given he was not playing well (I was surprised he even won a set).

    I agree with you in part about Novak's playing style, his shot making can be pretty amazing though.

    In terms of his legacy this win chalks up another record for Rafa but in my view he had already had a serious case for being the GOAT prior to this GS win (just as strong a case as Roger), given his olympic gold and Davis Cup too. This win makes that case stronger still.

    Finally- Boy do I love tennis right now.

  • Comment number 42.

    40. At 07:44 12th Jun 2012, _MikKar_ wrote:
    Nadal threw his petulant tantrum yesterday and the French were happy to give in because they love this brand of anti-tennis latins are so proud of. So much for fair-play, Djokovic would have won if it the match had carried on. Nadal's tactical tantrum won him the trophy yesterday.

    Nadal is not a great, he gets a yearly free slam here because he's been trained like an animal to win on clay, which happens to be the slowest surface ever and where you can't win anything if you try to play positive and aggressive tennis.

    Nadal won 7 here, yeah, great job. But his record outside that is useless, so you wonder what's the point of holding a slam at RG when it pretty much means that he'll have a red carpet all the way to the final and actual players like Federer, Djokovic, Del Potro and others are not even in his half of the table, so he gets to play only one of them. They should just hand the trophy over to him and let him munch it for 2 weeks.

    -------

    Please, he had a point it was wet and slippery potentially dangerous. Not to mention dark. Its not his fault the rankings worked the way they did, he did not create the seedings. Look he had arguably two of the top 5 best clay courters in the world (in Ferrer and Almagro) not to mention Murray in his draw- the fact that he is much better than them all on this surface is not his fault. It pains me to say this but he would have roasted Federer had they met.

    His forehand is arguably the greatest single sporting weapon in the world... Messi's left foot the only parralel possibly.

  • Comment number 43.

    _MikKar_ @ 40

    "Nadal won 7 here, yeah, great job. But his record outside that is useless"

    ------------------------------

    Wimbledon - 5 finals winning 2
    US Open - 2 finals winning 1
    Australian Open - 2 finals winning 1
    Olympic Games - Gold medal
    Record number of Masters' titles (on all kind of surfaces)

    Yeah, pretty useless.

  • Comment number 44.

    An engrossing match, with drama and tension, and some great passages of play, but not close enough to be a classic. A clear win for Nadal and he's the clay GOAT, no question. These two will probably meet again in the Wimbledon final (although I give both Federer and Murray more of a shot there) and if Nadal can win that one he'll be back at number one and he'll have a live chance of surpassing Federer's 16 slams.

  • Comment number 45.

    Comparisons between individual players from different eras surely don't work?!

    Rod Laver won the Grand Slam twice 7 years apart...amazing of course but then three of them were played on grass at the time. Could anyone have touched Federer six or seven years ago if three of the slam tournaments were grass based? It seems unlikely.

    Regardless of individual comparisons surely men's tennis is in the rudest health it has ever been in?

    Del Potro gets a mention above but also look at what Tsonga nearly did to Djokovic at Roland Garos? The Brist push Murray to win a slam (and I think he will) but he is competing in an era of men's tennis that I do not think has been seen before - arguably three of the greatest ever plus at least another four (Murray, Berdych, Del Potro and Tsonga) who are capable of winning a major or upsetting the "big three".

    Happy days!

  • Comment number 46.

    i own BMW thanks to Nadal never let me down in Paris

  • Comment number 47.

    41. At 07:59 12th Jun 2012, omegaSoodaBondai wrote:

    Bullhill, the fact that you are suggesting that Novaks being on the cusp of winning all four in a year is not that great an achievement shows how spoilt we are :) I mean you are comparing his achievement over the last year to what the two greatest players of all time did. Novaks achievement might be better still than what Fed did in 05-07 and Rafa in 10/11, given he had to beat Federer and Nadal en route to being at that point. Im sure had Rafa and Fed won their fourth GS on those occaisions it would have been rightly hailed as monumental. Perhaps it is also in part because he had more of a chance to beat Rafa then Roger did, although I did not think he had a serious chance given he was not playing well (I was surprised he even won a set).

    I agree with you in part about Novak's playing style, his shot making can be pretty amazing though.

    --------
    SoodaBondai, ha, yeah, it does sound as though I'm being absurdly blase about what is without doubt an incredible achievement but I assure you I'm not. I think my complaint is more about sports journalism and the desire/need to suggest that what's happening right now is somehow always better than what's happened before. But there's a funny double perspective with 'history' that they also exploit, where recent history is always being surpassed, but ancient history (i.e. Laver and Budge) is held up as iconic and the touchstone of all quality - holy grail-ish if you like. Of course, all those achievements are amazing and part of the richness of tennis history, but I just wish sometimes commentators would cool it. I don't want to suggest at all that what Djok's done hasn't been amazing, but they seemed to be suggesting that we've never been in this position since the 1960s in the men's game and that we could be about to witness history. The second part was undeniably true, but the first simply wasn't and I just don't like hyperbole of that kind as I don't need the story sold to me in a way that compromises the facts in the need for sensationalism. It's sensational enough as it is! And yes you're so right that we've been ridiculously spoiled over the last decade.

    I also agree that Djok's shotmaking at times is incredible, but I just can't quite love the meat and potatoes of his game. He's a returning machine, and he can generate incredible acceleration on the ball when he decides to rip the forehand and close in on the point. And when he's uninhibited and free-flowing he plays daredevil tennis (as J. Overend commented on his win over Tsonga), no other word for it really, a sort of crazy high-wire act of extreme risk shotmaking that no-one should even attempt but he manages to pull off. When he does that then he's more than a match for Nadal and Fed in a way that no one else on the tour, playing usually within themselves, has managed to be. Del Potro did it in his US Open win, but hasn't really gone to those heights since. But I think beating Nadal and Fed is about extreme risk-taking, and Djok has managed to make that almost his normal game, which is amazing, though a large part of his normal game is returning the ball like a metronome, again and again and again. Nadal's game is also built on defence, but he just looks a lot more swashbuckling and exciting, especially with that weird bespoke grip and stroke style that they never teach! Fed's style is basically the tennis coaching manual played by God. Completely orthodox strokes executed to the kind of grace and perfection I think people didn't realise were possible till he came on tour. That's what I love about tennis though, and why the arguments will never be silenced. 'Playing tennis' isn't one thing; there are so many styles of play, the top three at the moment all being very different from each other; and for me, Federer has been the greatest, most exquisite, artistic, majestic player I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Another Courier-ism with which I agree from the commentary on one of Fed's early round matches was when he said, in a moment of reflection on the qualities of Fed's play I've just described, 'I miss it already, and it's still here'. You can't help but realise that it's totally irreplaceable and only around for a few more years. I don't get tense about whether he'll win the tournaments any more, just enjoy making the most of simply watching him play whenever I get the chance!

    And yes, I am also seriously loving tennis at the moment. I think Fed's no longer someone we can expect to be beating the top two, certainly not on a regular basis, but I think age right now has to come into it too. He's 30 and they're 25/26, the absolute peak years in tennis and it's not entirely fair to overlook that. I would have loved to see what the three of them would have been like had they been exact contemporaries: the Fed of 2007 against these two now (would have certainly resulted in poor old Andy Roddick winning a few more slams and not turning into the world's bitterest man for one thing)! Fed's starting to feel like he's from an older generation now, which he is, but it's a testimony to how unique a player he is that he can still blow away 99% of the competition and is still, let's face it, very much in the mix to win more slams. It's just not as likely as it is with Nadal and Djok.

  • Comment number 48.

    So all in all, if the conditions had stayed the same from beginning to end Nadal would have won in 3? But if they had not stopped for the rain delay Djokovic would have won in 5?
    I think people just need to give credit to where it is due, Nadal is great tennis player.
    I personally feel that Djokovic's tennis is more like Russian Roulette, and it is bound to be exposed sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 49.

    The comments about the blue clay are rediculous!! Rafa and Novak both rejected it not because they lost, but because it is a waste of their time. As if Rafa couldn't beat Verdasco on that surface if he had any desire to progress.. For both of them SLAMS are the only important thing now, and playing at a stupid tournament weeks before Roland Garros is just a waste of their time and energy.

  • Comment number 50.

    37) And Roger is far from arrogant. Just check out how many sportsmanship awards he has one compared to Rafa. Roger isn't just a better player, he is a better personality!


    ------------------------------------

    best bit of sportsmanship is having 15(I think?) on Fed's clothing to make Roddick feel that much better on losing a Wimbledon final! ;-)

  • Comment number 51.

    HT-Hotspur - Would Rafa be The King Of Clay had Novak turned up in the first two sets? I seriously doubt it!

    ----------------

    HT-Hotspur, you are an idiot, maybe if Federer or anyone else turned up over the last 8 years at the French, Rafa would be getting knocked out in the first round? Here is a whacky idea, maybe Nadal is quite good on clay and people dont just "not turn up" but he stops them playing?

    Never forget that the only reason Fed even has a French Open is because Rafa was injured!

  • Comment number 52.

    The article above completely ignores the fact that Novak was almost certainly going to win - then the rain came down. He often takes a while to get started, and so the rain break helped Rafa. I repeat - Djokovic would probably have won the tournament if they had not had to stop the match on Sunday. It is very odd that Tom Fordyce has not mentioned this crucial, pivotal issue.

  • Comment number 53.

    pgtipsy @ 52

    "Djokovic would probably have won the tournament if they had not had to stop the match on Sunday"
    ------------------------------------
    Nadal would probably have won the final in straight sets if they had stopped the match earlier on Sunday.


    "He often takes a while to get started, and so the rain break helped Rafa."
    ------------------------------------
    Seriously, is it Nadal's fault that Djokovic "often takes a while to get started"? And did that "while" last for 2 sets and another 2 games on Sunday?

  • Comment number 54.

    As I've said before Nadal's dominance at Roland Garros is such that everyone else is playing for the runners-up spot. You can't say that about any other of the Slam tournaments and it is a measure of the guy's greatness on clay.
    I can see the Nadal - Djokovic finals duopoly being broken at either Wimbledon or the US Open however. I have a sneaky feeling that Federer has got one more major title in him. Anyone else think he may be spurred on sufficiently by Nadal's magnificent 7 at RG to achieve his own seventh heaven at Wimbledon and thereby match his idol Sampras?

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    _MikKar_ @ 55

    Thanks for the reply mate. But judging by your reply, I think we will have to agree to disagree. I didn't really bother reading the rest really after your explanation: "His 2 wins at Wimbledon were offered to him on a plate,".
    One of those finals is considered by many an expert to be one of the best matches ever played.

    P.S. -
    If you're "happy to see the back of him", you are not a fan of tennis but just a fan of a player.

  • Comment number 57.

    I must admit that after watching that gripping finale, reading these comments did leave a bitter taste in my mouth. There are so many IFs and BUTs in life that discussing them to get to a probable conclusion that did not actually happen is more like acting God.
    " If it hadn't rained, Nadal would won the match in straight sets " " If it had continued Djokovich, would have won in 5 sets" ...well the reality is that nadal won in 4 sets and whatever comments that we are writing here are not going in with the History that these guys have written here.
    Nadal might have been right in his complaining though, again a very personal opinion and could even be biased as I am a Nadal fan. Adapting your game to certain conditions doesn't mean one should start practicing in rain so that you can play better when you have to play in rain in a grand Slam final ! And again, a Grand Slam final is not the best place to start practicing this skill ! they might as well start practicing in ice, for it might start snowing some day and they are made to play through it ...The difference is in the techniques of the two players, while Djoko likes to hit it flat and long, nadal wants to get it loopy and high with a lot of topspin. Anyone who had played any bit of tennis would agree that a topspin shot would not gain much distance or spin if the ball is wet. Most of Nadal's shots after the rain were short and lower that allowed Djoko to take advantage and hit his favorite shorts and angles. How else would you explain a man whose forehand was either whizzing past the opponent or bounced over head high with top spin on it - not easy to hit flat shots on those without making too many mistakes. True that Djoko summons all his resources when pushed to the wall, but against Nadal on clay, it would have been very tough. Still I was pretty sad that it rained that day, but we probably wouldn't have seen so many comments on this post either had it not rained !

    Whatever said and done, let's salute both these players for the champions they are ..and for the "humans " they are, as someone very appropriately mentioned in an earlier post. After all if you don't watch the sport for some emotion, why not create robots that play the game or even go online and watch a tennis PC game ! It's not even human to keep your emotions under control when there is so much pressure and tension in the air !
    this is probably the best phase of tennis that we are seeing in the last 10-15 years..lets sit back and enjoy it !

  • Comment number 58.

    _MikKar_

    brilliant, discrediting Rafa's slams because Fed was injured or got knocked out in previous rounds. If I am going to stoop to your level, all I need to say is WEAK ERA!!! Beating Hewitt's, Safin's, Roddick's and a very young Nadal to win most of your slams proves nothing.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hearty congratulations to Rafa Nadal.
    Tremendous show over the years.
    The young man could collect many
    more Slams in the years to come.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    Reading all these comments just proves that if you like Nadal you slag off Djokovic for his behaviour. If like Djokovic you slag off Nadal for his behaviour.
    I don´t think people realise how much work and commitment it takes to reach the level that these people play at. Ít wasn´t a Sunday afternoon down your local tennis club. This was a major Grand Slam with the number one and the number two of the WORLD hitting balls that reach 200km per hour.
    Both had their problems.
    Djok wasn´t just angry at himself as someone suggested he was angry at everything including the conditions and that Rafa was better than him in the first two sets. Everything he threw at Nadal, Nadal returned.
    Someone wrote "If Djok had bothered to turn up in the first two sets he would have won". What a studpid thing to right because Djok WAS there but he didn´t play as well as Rafa. He played well but not as well.
    He played better than Rafa in the third (adapted to conditions better maybe or maybe Rafa had a dip and Djok woke up more.....who knows really). I think at this level you can only expect ups and downs because they are both so brilliant. You see this at any match of this level. It would be more unlikely if Rafa had just run off with the game in 3 sets.
    But I still insist that when Rafa Nadal complains he usually has a very good reason for it. He knows his job well and he know when to shut up and keep his head down and he knows when to speak up.
    He had his racket made heavier this year (3grams). You or I wouldn´t notice this weight if we held a racket with only this difference. But he does.
    When a ball weighs approx. 20gms and becomes wet and probably doubles in weight then it has a huge affect on any player. It could cause injury to any player.
    Djok was slipping and sliding and he could have injured himself. At this level these kind of players are not going to tolerate such conditions.
    Rafa was right to complain and it was right to stop the match. It should have been stopped before. The rain wasn´t particularly heavy but over time it made the balls and the court very bad to play.
    And lets not forget that Djok did complain and kept looking at the ground supervisors and shrugging his shoulders too during the second set. NEITHER were happy.
    But when one is losing momentum or losing then a stop helps.
    When one is winning then it doesn`t help to stop.
    He may not have the skill set of other players (Federer or Djok) but mentally he is probably one of the

  • Comment number 62.

    60) You have clearly forgotten that the only reason Fed has a French Open is because Rafa got beat by Soderling. Fed beat Soderling - a man (who is not a clay court specialist) who Rafa could not beat on "his" beloved clay.

    Rafa was NOT injured - unless as a Rafa fan you are trying to make excuses for him. Well there is no need, Rafa is good at making excuses himself. He is The King Of Excuses!

    ---------------

    Thats not really all the facts though is it?

    Rafa beat Sod on clay just before the French very convincingly.
    He also beat him the following year in the final in straight sets.
    Nadal missed Wimbledon after that match which clearly shows he was injured.

    But never mind the obvious facts, you are either just a troll fishing or are clearly deluded like a few Fed fans on here.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ 40

    _MikKar_

    Brilliant comment about Rafa. You took the words right of my mouth and my heart. Rafa has not been trained as a tennis player. He's been trained as an animal - well he eats all his trophies like a piece of meat!

    I am glad I am not the only one who can see Rafa for who he really is and what type of player he is! I am glad there is someone else who sees the truth about Rafa. We all know that the ONLY reason that Rafa has won 2 Wimbledons is that the grass has been slowed down so much that a turtle could beat a hare and a snail could beat a cheetah. What the grass courts are nowadays are virtually "green clay". Yes, they have changed the grass courts so much so that players like Rafa can play on them. They play like clay courts. So that Rafa (who can adapt to any condition, who can cope with a drop of rain, a breath of wind, who can cope with the colour of a court - NOT) doesn't have to adapt, they've already been adapted for him!

    Yes Rog did (for only a few times) turn up in specially designed clothing (that a friend offered and suggested to design and make for him) at Wimbledon. Yes Novak did break the chair ONCE.

    But Rafa ALWAYS timewastes, takes unnecessary medical timeouts for a
    apparently dodgy knees then runs around like a headless chicken for hours on end (how are the knees Rafa - cough), makes excuses and throws temper tantrums because he don't like the colour of the court, etc - the list is endless!

  • Comment number 64.

    HT-Hotspur

    I guess you need to have a weak grasp on reality to be a spurs fan, but you are just sounding like a little hate boy who cried himself to sleep last night when Rafa won. You have provided great entertainment on here but I think its mostly pity now that I and probably everyone else feels, that a nobody like you can hate a celebrated champion sooo much that you feel you need to come on here and write nonsense.

    Keep hating, hope your life is not too messed up because of yesterday. hahaha

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 62

    There is only one fact and that Soderling BEAT Rafa. Dodgy knees or not, Rafa had no answer for Soderling's positive and aggressive gameplan, he could not return Soderling's penetratable and thunderous groundstokes because Rafa didn't have enough time to generate his lame topspin. If Rafa was really injured he would have abandoned he match or not even turn up to start the match. Instead he is the one who is trolling tennis with his pathetic excuses and temper tantrums. And those are the facts and you need to get your deluded head out of the clouds!

  • Comment number 66.

    @ HT-Hotspur, another one complaining the courts are too slow, they didn't look that slow the last two years when berdych and tsonga powered the ball repeatedly past federer, or in 09 in the final when Roddick held serve for 37 consecutive service games before losing it in the last game of the match, or in the Isner-Mahut match. Yes the courts are slower, the balls are heavier, but the rackets are better and more powerful. The death of the serve volley game is as much down to un-imaginitive players and coaches from Murray down (I don't see why the top 3 need to experiment particularly).

    I agree with Granty, there are a lot of one-eyed comments on here (possibly from trolls or football fans). I am a Nadal fan, but I love the rivalry between the top 3, I hope Overand's Federer blog is premature, but if not I hope Tsonga, Murray or Delpo or any other can raise their games.

  • Comment number 67.

    65) If Rafa was really injured he would have abandoned he match or not even turn up to start the match.

    Rafa had no answer for Soderling's positive and aggressive gameplan

    --------------

    hahaha - you keep digging, not realising how despirate you sound.
    Sure Sodeling played well that year, but why has this gameplan not really worked ever before or since? Fluke? Other reasons?

    Rafa should have retired you say? You were probably on a different forum at some point bashing Djokovic or Murray or anyone else for retiring during games or looking injured.

    Remember when Fed lost to Berdich and then complained he was injured after? Should he not have retired before that game or during? Or all the other injuries you say Fed had to give Rafa Wimb?

    You keep contradicting yourself, I would give up before... nope I dont think you could get any lower. Loser!

  • Comment number 68.

    VAMOS

    I hate to ruffle your Rafa loving feathers but not everybody on here "celebrates" Rafa as a champion. I am entitled to my own opinion thank you very much. I am sorry I do not choose to "celebrate" Rafa's excuses, timewasting antics and temper tantrums!

    Yes, Rafa is a great player but he is not necessarily a great sportsman.

    I maybe a nobody but I am not a hateful little boy, which by the tone of your comment you come across as such.

    Oh and FYI, I am a woman!

  • Comment number 69.

    Lots of posts here about the greatest of all time. I agree its a very difficult thing to look at players across the generations but for me there is one record that stands out above all the rest. Borg won back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon titles four years in succession. This was in an era before Wimbledon changed the grass and you had to master clay court tennis and fast serve-volley grass. John Lloyd tells a great story of practising with Borg at Wimbledon after he had just won the French on clay. On Monday he could beat him easily. Tuseday and Wednesday Borg's timing came back and by Friday he was ready. Today? Very little adjustment is needed as the serve volley game has gone. Borg for me as the best.

  • Comment number 70.

    sorry hateful little girl, other opinions are available, yours just happens to be wrong.

  • Comment number 71.

    Re: VAMOS

    Really? You call me a nobody and a loser!

    With immature comments like that it is clearly obvious I am trying to reason with someone who should be competiting in the junior league!

  • Comment number 72.

    Hateful little girl now is it!

    I guess ignorance really is bliss!

  • Comment number 73.

    Nadal's instincts on clay are extraordinary and probably uncoachable. What a competitor. Less commendable, however, is the amount of time taken by him to play the game, way beyond what is actually allowed. It is absurd that his opponents should be required to wait on the service line while Nadal picks his bottom and towels down for the umpteenth time (Djokovic can be just as bad, to be fair). Taken together with Raffa and Uncle Tony's tendency to throw their toys out of the pram when they think it's in their interests to do so, regardless of other players, it is surely time for a stand against the "rules don't apply if I don't like them" attitude of certain top players. It is deeply disrespectful to and unfair on other players who abide by the rules and undermines the ethos of the game. Fans would give Raffa a lot more credit if he did something about this rather than continually seeking to play the game on his terms, regardless of officials, the rules or other competitors. The sight of Uncle Tony berating match officials down the tunnel is something tennis does not need.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ 66

    thedannymess

    A troll? I am not

    A football fan? Yes I am

    A tennis fan? Yes I am - its better than football

    A Nadal fan? Clearly not

    A Roger fan? Obviously

    A Novak fan? Yes

    And yes I enjoy the rivalry with the Second Trinity Of Tennis - Fedrerer, Nadal & Djokovic. Just like everyone enjoyed the rivalry with the First Trinity Of Tennis - Borg, McEnroe & Connors.

  • Comment number 75.

    Fernando is faster than me - 56.
    Of course we disagree, I was a bit over the top in my description of his wins on other surfaces (bar clay) and didn't mean to sound that aggressive. It's nothing against you, and at the end of the day, he had to beat the player who was against him on the day and he can't be expected to do more.

    We disagree because I support a brand of tennis that involves finishing points quick and generally by coming to the net to finish a point, be it through aces, serve-volley, drop-shots, smashes, etc. I'm assuming you're a fan of Nadal, ergo you don't dislike long rallies from the baseline. To put it mildly, I hate it. So RG never sat well with me.

    I prefer Federer's style, no doubt, but generally there's a philosophy of the game I adhere to, and Nadal is just not in that category.

    VAMOS - 58.
    You want to go down that road ? This era is weaker than the previous as we only see 2 players show up in a final, whichever slam you go in : Nadal and Djokovic. And guess what : both play the same brand of tennis, hitting balls like crazy from behind the baseline. That's how poor the standard is right now. If Fed's era is weak, this era is totally void : you only need to know how to run around for hours and make top-spins to reach finals, wonderful.

  • Comment number 76.

    VAMOS

    If it isn't beyond your level of understanding may I refer you to the highly intelligent comment made by thinredline at 73. They highlight in a better approach at the point I am trying to make about Rafa!

  • Comment number 77.

    Its because of the court-surfaces displaying 'similar characteristics' on the effects on a tennis-ball that we currently have arguably one of the weakest, not strongest eras in tennis-history.
    When hardcourt, clay and grass played drastically different to each other, it was much more difficult for the same player (or two players) to reach all the finals consecutively, because there were actually totally different styles of playing tennis, each one best for each conditions, so there were real specialists (not to mention 16 seeds only). The only players in history who have come close to this were guys like Lendl, McEnroe and to a smaller degree, Federer (although one can argue, courts were being changed since 2002).

    We badly need to see various surfaces otherwise...hope you have fun enjoying these grindfests between Djokovic and Nadal for the next couple of years. At first I was okay with it as Nadal was getting spanked every time but even Djokovic's dominaton is really starting to get boring. I wouldn't even mind Djokovic-Nadal finals if there was some variety but they just go out and court and try to outgrind each other from the baseline.

    Sadly, I can see someone like Nadal winning 15 or 16 Majors as a result and the guy can't even play on Indoor courts....

  • Comment number 78.

    Sadly, I can see someone like Nadal winning 15 or 16 Majors as a result and the guy can't even play on Indoor courts....

    ----------
    been to the final at the O2, so now quite "can't even play".

    Regarding the speed of the courts, you really want to see grass get faster? Ok, then it will be Rionic v Insner final ever year. Surve and volley might have worked with wooden rackets but when some players can now consistently serve near 150mph, NO THANK YOU!!!

  • Comment number 79.

    @ 75

    _MikKar_

    Yet again brilliant comment especially your response to VAMOS's once again "immature" and quite ridiculous argument about Roger winning his slams in a "weak" era!

    I say we should bring back Sampras, Edberg, Becker and yes Henman - real tennis players and not battle axes like Rafa! As for Novak, I do love him, he maybe a battle axe but he does have a more traditional and more conventional style of play and style of motion. All Rafa wants to do is run around all day long and see how much more spin he can get on his shots rather than just hitting his shots. His style of motion on his groundstokes is all very contrived. I personally do not enjoy watching him play. I only watch Rafa when he plays against Rog or Novak.

  • Comment number 80.

    Silver Surfer

    I agree. It would be nice to see some "real" specialists again. It would also be nice see the court surfaces return to their original, traditional and distinctive forms. That way we would go back to more varied styles of tennis and not have to endure one-dimensional baseline rallies like we get with The French Open. The most one-dimensional slam ever!

  • Comment number 81.

    73. thinredline

    So you want Nadal and Djok to speed up their serving action, when they are more comfortable composing themselves, doing rituals etc to the detriment of their own game?

    Not gona happen!! It is up to the opponent, if he is that put off, to complain. And I dont think they care, to get a breather against Novak should be welcome! Professional sportsmen will always do things on their own terms, its what makes the very good, GREAT!! You need to be ruthless.

    You think Mcenroe would think twice about his opponent? Or someone like Schumacher using another sport as an example?

    Federer fans love to bash Nadal and Djok fans with this stick, so Fed prefers to keep momentum and serve straight away, thats how it works for him, if he needed the time between points to compose himself, you think he would care about anyone else? Its always the same, you always find reasons to dislike the rival of your player, in every sport, football, F1, etc. And every dam tennis forum on her end up with Fed / Nadal / Djok fans slating the other. Thank god I am not a Murray fan, thats all I will say.

  • Comment number 82.

    HT-Hotspur

    So everything you use to have a go at Rafa, Novak also does but thats OK because his style of ground stroke is more conventional? Seriously what are you on? get a life!

  • Comment number 83.

    63.At 12:20 12th Jun 2012, HT-Hotspur wrote:
    Rafa has not been trained as a tennis player. He's been trained as an animal
    But Rafa ALWAYS timewastes, takes unnecessary medical timeouts for a
    apparently dodgy knees then runs around like a headless chicken for hours on end (how are the knees Rafa - cough), makes excuses and throws temper tantrums because he don't like the colour of the court, etc - the list is endless!

    60.At 11:47 12th Jun 2012, HT-Hotspur wrote:
    Rafa is a dirty player - well - he is The King Of Dirt!


    71. At 13:01 12th Jun 2012, HT-Hotspur wrote:
    With immature comments like that it is clearly obvious I am trying to reason with someone who should be competiting in the junior league!


    ------------------------------

    LOL

  • Comment number 84.

    #78: VAMOS
    Been to the final at the O2, so now quite "can't even play".
    Regarding the speed of the courts, you really want to see grass get faster? Ok, then it will be Rionic v Insner final ever year. Surve and volley might have worked with wooden rackets but when some players can now consistently serve near 150mph, NO THANK YOU!!!"


    Raonic, Isner, Tsonga, Querry, Roddick - name any big-server of today and I'll show you someone who's inconsistent everywhere else. Having a big-serve now really means you get maybe 10-15 free points, max, per set. You still have to do the groundwork and come to the net more often - and in today's game, it takes some nerves to even attempt that.
    Guys like Nadal, Djokovic and Murray wouldn't be taken out of the game because they're such good returners-of-serve.

    Here's some food for thought: back from 1990-99, when Wimbledon grass, US Open Deco-Turf (and to a degree, Australian Open Rebound-Ace) played super-fast/fast, guess how many Major finals (out of a possible 30) did Goran Ivanišević, Richard Krajicek, Wayne Arthurs, Marc Rosset, Mark Philippoussis, Micheal Stich, Greg Rusedski PLAY in?
    Answer: 10

    In fact, now name me how many of the three majors (minus Roland Garros) each year between 1990-99 were WON by pure big-servers?
    Answer: None.

  • Comment number 85.

    This is to all you people out there who are bitter and making comments:

    LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD

  • Comment number 86.

    I'm a Rafa fan - used to be Federer fan and Borg before him!

    Rafa does / did have a mental blog when facing Djockovic - gave away Oz open for sure!

    His achievements are fantastic considering that he has a dreadfully feable serve!

    Imagine a Rafa that could serve like Becker Federer or jockovic!

  • Comment number 87.

    @1 Amazing comment that Novak isn't mentally tough - ask Roger and Jo-Wilfred about that (match points up against him and lost).

    There was so much build up to the event, it was almost inevitable the match would not live up to Australia! Having said that, it was a tremendous battle and there were some fabulous points - inspirational to a keen player like myself (though I know I'll never come close!)

    Bring on SW19!

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm reading all of your comments this morning and have to admit that I am shocked by many of them. I agree with 61 in that we are biased towards our favourites but some of these comments go far beyond that into being highly disrespectful of some exceptional athletes that give nothing but their best for our viewing pleasure.

    I am partial to Rafa and Novak although I also enjoy the elegance of Roger's on court play. I was never a Fed fan due to off-court stuff. Well, in light of all these comments I may have judged him too harshly. They all have their human moments and as far as I can see, most of them are friends off the court. Does anyone remember how Rafa honoured Roger when he won the Australian or how Roger pulled it together that same day to allow Nadal the last word that he said Rafa deserved? How Novak applauds his opponents shots and is so gracious in defeat?

    The top 3 are amazing (as are many others). Roger plays with an unequalled elegance, he makes it look so easy! Rafa plays left handed, how difficult must that have been as a youngter but he persevered. Rafa never gives up on a point and wills himself to win. Novak when he is on is scary, he returns everything that comes his way and plays with controlled wreckless abandon, he is willing to risk everything to win.

    I am a fan and look forward to many more years of exciting tennis. Just the fact that people have such strong opinions shows how great this sport really is. I would just hope that we could respect all of them even though it is natural to have favourites.

    Enjoy Wimbledon everyone. I'll be glued to my TV!

  • Comment number 89.

    86.At 15:25 12th Jun 2012, EDCIJN wrote:
    I'm a Rafa fan - used to be Federer fan and Borg before him!

    Rafa does / did have a mental blog when facing Djockovic - gave away Oz open for sure!

    His achievements are fantastic considering that he has a dreadfully feable serve!

    Imagine a Rafa that could serve like Becker Federer or jockovic

    ---------------

    I thought that Rafa did well to take it to 5 sets in Oz and Novak nearly gave it away as the better player on that surface, but I guess being a break up in the 5th you could be right.

    Rafa's serve and backhand were really weak at the start of his career, but thats the best thing about Nadal, he has developed his game year on year more than anyone, and every time he has faced a problem like Fed on grass 2006 +, winning US Open, now Novak, he has adjusted his game better than anyone and he has a real chance at Wimb this year. Plus the mental strength after losing 7 on the trot must give you real issues, but he came out yesterday as if those 8 games lost didn't happen.

    As for imagine Rafa with a good serve, imagine Fed with a double handed backhand!!! Holly c***

  • Comment number 90.

    @25

    At no point did I describe Nadal directly as arrogant, you clueless buffoon.

    All my points remain valid. I fully expected the Nadal fanbois to come up with examples of other players tantrums. And yes they all have them and are usually when they aren't winning. The difference is other players vent their frustration, but retain a level of respect and sportsmanship. They are born from their competitive nature, I'm sure some of Nadals are as well, but many of his tricks are calculated and quite deliberate. Designed to disrupt the rhythm and concentration of his opponent. For all yours, and others defence of him, I have never once seen anyone able to rebuff or defend this behaviour of his with any substance.

    Oh, and for the record Nadal is arrogant. As are all sporting champions. It's a necessary component in becoming a champion.

    In summary, you are clueless

  • Comment number 91.

    @ 82

    VAMOS - how was school today? Did you manage to bully everyone in the playground? Novak does NOT do everything that Rafa does. For starters, he does not pick his bottom and towel off for the umpteenth time between points, etc

    Oh and what on earth is the point you are trying to make in 83 - that you know the difference between wit and immaturity - because you clearly don't.

    I'm afraid your playground talk and school bully tactics don't wash with me and it would seem with a few others on here too!

    "Get a life", "nobody like you" and "loser" - wow you really know how to form a constructive comment don't you!

  • Comment number 92.

    What an incredible era of tennis we have witnessed, was a fascinating match i did think nadal would pull through but saying that if the 2nd rain delay put the advantage back into nadals hands as he was able to compose himself. I think these 2 will set an even bigger rivalry dare i say it than roger and rafa. I love roger but these two players are so exciting and you just don't know whats going to happen next. Rafa only 1 behind roger now in the slams and i think he will surpass him.

  • Comment number 93.

    Rafa Nadal won a GRAND SLAM MATCH against Djokovic at Roland Garros? Are you sure? According to Roland Garros circus officials and their clowns, he did. But what Rafa really won was two matches, first a two-set match on Sunday, and second, a one-set match on Monday. According to RG clowns, by simple arithmetic, two sets on Sunday + one on Monday add up to one must-win-three-sets-in a single time span GRAND SLAM MATCH. Thus, Rafa won a GRAND SLAM MATCH. Well, if this is the case, we can ask what is the purpose of a GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENT? Can't tennis players just play Master tournament must-win two sets matches, then? Isn't the GRAND SLAM MATCH designed to test tennis player's tennis skill, endurance, stamina, willpower, form, over the longer must-win-three-sets period of time? Isn't the must-win-three-sets-in a single time span GRAND SLAM MATCH the essence of the GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENT? So, did Rafa Nadal win a GRAND SLAM MATCH? Think about it!

  • Comment number 94.

    93. A Grand Slam is the winning of all four Major tournaments in a single year.

  • Comment number 95.

    Nadal played well and is a deserving champion, but I did get the impression that if Djokovic can maintain his standard of play on the upcoming non-clay courts, he will demolish Nadal for the rest of the season.

    Most, if not all of Nadal's incredible run down gets will not be possible on other surfaces.

    However, 11 slams and counting for Nadal is brilliant.

  • Comment number 96.

    Is Nadal really one of the best tennis players ever when 7 of his 11 slams have come on clay surely he should adapt to the other courts and become an all round player

  • Comment number 97.

    HT-Hotspur

    hahaha what are all these school references about? You can try and change the subject, but the bottom line is that all your comments regarding tennis are rediculous, completely biased, you contradict yourself on almost everything you say and just clearly hate Nadal. Well enjoy the thought of Rafa and his 11 Slams and the record of most Masters 1000 and the Olympic gold and Davis Cup.

    Just a small summary of your HT-Hotspur stupidity, enjoy everyone...

    Fed was injured almost every time Nadal beat him, but when Fed won, Nadal clearly just got beat.

    It's OK for Novak to take long between points because his style is conventional and he doesn't pick his shorts (oh and he does and many other players use the towel on most points).

    Rafa is a dirty player

    I assume you think Rafa has more temper tantrums than any other player, since you only highlight him. (Dont worry about the fact that he never throws his racket or destroy chairs)

    Rafa is "arrogant" and "selfish" while every other player is the Buddhist monk

    Rafa should be happy to play in rediculous conditions when its peeing it down and there are puddles on the court

  • Comment number 98.

    rambo

    Well 11 slams put him with some special tennis players, he HAS won all 4 while many others such as Sampras, Becker haven't.

  • Comment number 99.

    Long Live The King - your comments are laughable. Reread your comments - you keep contradicting yourself!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    96 rambo

    I think with certainty that Nadal can still be considered one of the best. He has won 7 on clay, 2 on hard courts and 2 on grass. Roger has only won 1 on clay but I don't think that this prevents him from being considered one of the best does it? I hope not.

 

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