Rafael Nadal is the champion at Roland-Garros for an unprecedented 13th time, his victory over world No.1 Novak Djokovic elevating him level with Roger Federer’s all-time mark.
The Spaniard delivered one of his finest performances against arguably his toughest rival to prevail 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 on Sunday.
It was his 100th match win on the clay in Paris, his 27th from 56 showdowns with the Serb.
Rafael Nadal creates history, equals Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams
History was on the line for both men in their third showdown for the title on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Victory elevated Nadal to tie Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, the feat achieved in two hours and 42 minutes. It was the first time the 34-year-old had drawn level with the Swiss great’s tally.
Djokovic was again bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win all four majors twice. It was his first defeat from his past six major finals, but his fourth in a Roland-Garros title match.
It marked the first time Nadal had beaten Djokovic in a Grand Slam final since Roland-Garros 2014 and edged his nose in front 5-4 in their major finals head-to-head.
With the roof closed due to light rain outside it was Nadal who made the stronger start. The level was exceptional from both from the off, but all the big points early on went the Spaniard’s way as he out-matched the Serb’s aggression from the back of the court to break three times.
He served out the opening set with an ace. It marked the first time Djokovic had failed to win a game in a set since the Rome final last year against Nadal and the first 6-0 set he had conceded at a major since his quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in Paris three years ago.
Djokovic finally stemmed the bleeding of games after 48 minutes when he fended off break points to hold in the opening game of the second set, but it was not enough to swing the set in his favour as he was broken twice on his way to a two-set deficit.
It was not until an hour and 28 minutes in Djokovic registered his second game of the match. He would add only two more before Nadal broke for 3-2 with a two-set lead in hand.
Then the only momentary momentum shift of the match in Djokovic’s favour as he threaded a backhand in behind Nadal to break for the first time.
It was his last hurrah. A double fault surrendered serve at 5-all to hand the Spaniard the chance to serve for the title and he never blinked. Three championship points and he needed just one.