Spain’s Rafael Nadal defeated Serbia’s Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 on Monday in the rain-delayed final of the French Open, clinching a record 7th title at Roland Garros.
Nadal, who has now won 11 Grand Slam titles, broke his tie with Swedish great Bjorn Borg of six French championships each.
The Spaniard has two Wimbledon titles, one U.S. Open title and an Australian Open championship to go along with his seven French Open titles.
“I had already lost three Grand Slam finals against him so it was important to win mentally,” Nadal said. “The mental part is also more important on clay and my game naturally adapts very well to this surface ... Novak plays fantastic and is having a great season. But you can’t be perfect all the time.”
Nadal has now won as many majors as Borg and Rod Laver, trails Roy Emerson by one and Pete Sampras by three, and is five Grand Slam titles behind Swiss great and long-time rival Roger Federer.
“This has perhaps been my best clay-court season,” Nadal said after the match, which had been postponed on Sunday due to the heavy rains in the French capital.
The players took up their rackets Monday with Nadal leading 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2 and Djokovic on serve, up a break.
The Spaniard had just ended an eight-game losing streak and was not happy when play was stopped for the second time on Sunday.
The first rain delay had come with Nadal leading 6-4, 5-3 and lasted 25 minutes.
The 26-year-old Nadal, who celebrated his birthday during the tournament, picked up where he had left off, breaking Djokovic in the 9th game and taking the second set 6-3.
Play was suspended again after three hours and tournament officials decided to resume the match on Monday.
“It is a privilege to play here against the best in the world,” Nadal said after the match.
Roland Garros is “possibly the best tournament in the world,” Nadal said.
The French Open “is a special tournament,” Nadal said, joking that even though he now has seven trophies “there is always room at home for a trophy like this one.”
Djokovic, for his part, congratulated Rafa and said he expected to see him “next year” as he continues his bid for the only Grand Slam title he has not won.
The Serb, who will retain the No. 1 ranking, was trying to become just the third man in tennis history to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously.
“I could easily have lost the match in fourth round or even more against (France’s Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, but I managed to come to the finals for the first time in my career. I should be happy about that, of course. I will be and I am, but in this moment I am disappointed about this loss,” Djokovic said.
Nadal has now surpassed Borg as the all-time men’s champion and tied American Chris Evert, who won the French Open in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1986, for most titles among all players.