It’ll do the men’s singles final at French Open an immense disservice if it is reductively recounted as Rafael Nadal’s 100th match win at Roland Garros or 13th Grand Slam title on clay or 999th career win. Nadal’s 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Novak Djokovic was a classic which reminded the world that epic encounters don’t always need to go to five sets. Nadal winning the first set 6-0 against an opponent who hadn’t lost his last 38 matches wasn’t some one-sided savage dismantling by the Spaniard on what is his stomping ground. It was a riveting short story with twists and turns.
This wasn’t Nadal trying to extract errors from Djokovic. He was thinking hard, stretching every sinew, exploring all angles on the court. The drop-shot that had worked for Djokovic all week was also on show. Against Nadal on the day, it didn’t work. He would read his mind, reach the ball and place it across the net. Even when Nadal’s dominance grew, the presence of Djokovic on the opposite end left a tantalising possibility of a comeback. Djokovic wasn’t giving up, Nadal wasn’t giving in. It was that kind of a Sunday.
The 2020 Nadal win was nothing like his 12 previous triumphs at Paris. Not Federer’s roasting of 2008, nor the titanic triumph of 2011 where the Spaniard drew the best out of Federer on clay, could match this one. The Spaniard unleashed an uncharacteristic geometric game, not beholden to percentage play, leaving Djokovic with no answers. Serving up a masterclass without being a slave to a five-set scoreline, while equalling Federer’s 20, Nadal can now stake legitimate claim to his friend’s Greatest Of All Time honour. For with all things being equal now, there’s a Nadal-sized French Open asterisk against Federer’s GOAT claims.
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