Some kingdoms simply cannot be conquered. And Rafael Nadal has defended his Parisian crown with unparalleled determination. In a year where nobody seemed to be able to beat Novak Djokovic, it was Nadal at Roland Garros who delivered that first loss. Nadal won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to claim the 13th French Open title – taking him level with Roger Federer’s record of most Major titles, 20. Here’s how it panned out.
The Spaniard’s playing style often involves him engaging in long rallies, playing percentage shots to tire out the opponent before unleashing the winner. But against Djokovic, Nadal was aggressive from the onset.
He played accurate angled shots to move Djokovic around court, instead of the safety strokes, searching for an opening to hit another winner. The tactic resulted in him dominating the stats for most points won in rallies that lasted four shots – Djokovic had 25, Nadal had a remarkable 53.
Unforced error count
For all his efficiency and accuracy over the fortnight, the Serb simply could not find his usual range in his strokes. Granted, Nadal’s vicious topspin is no easy shot to counter, but someone of Djokovic’s experience should arguably be able to keep the ball in play. Instead, his unforced error count ended up being alarmingly high. Of the 106 points Nadal won on the night, 52 were through a Djokovic unforced error. Nadal, meanwhile, committed just 14 unforced errors.
Shaky first serve
Djokovic’s first-serve percentage throughout the tournament had been a healthy 65. In the opening set on Sunday, it crashed down to 42. Djokovic landed only 11 of his 26 first serves, and could only win three points from them. Nadal capitalised on the weaker second serves, winning 62 per cent of the receiving points and 3 out of 6 breakpoints.
Djokovic found his range as the match progressed, improving his first-serve percentage to 67. He often also attempted riskier, bigger second serves. But the jittery opening set allowed Nadal to set the tone with a 76 per cent first-serve rate.
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One of the storylines going into the final was Djokovic’s effective drop shots. With heavier balls and colder conditions, Djokovic had used the drop shot 147 times before Sunday’s title clash –– more than twice the tally from his semis run last year (72).
In the opening game alone, Djokovic tried the shot five times and failed to win a point. Overall, he tried the drop shot 28 times, but got 13 points from it. When quizzed about the tactic in the press conference, the Serb said: “It didn’t work great today, let’s say.”
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