PARIS – Moments after his rain-interrupted French Open final against Rafael Nadal resumed Monday, Novak Djokovic netted a forehand and punished himself by smacking his racket strings against the side of his head three times.
A day earlier, Djokovic cracked his racket against his green sideline bench, sending a piece of the furniture flying.
Bidding to become the first man in 43 years to win four consecutive Grand Slam championships, the No. 1-ranked Djokovic was frustrated and beaten by the No. 2-ranked Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in a two-day title match at Roland Garros.
Djokovic's 27-match winning streak at major tournaments ended in his debut in a Paris final. Nadal was playing in his seventh final at Roland Garros; he's won every one, giving him a record seven trophies at the French Open.
"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," Djokovic said. "But in this moment I am disappointed about this loss."
Only Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969 won four Grand Slam trophies in succession.
Djokovic won Wimbledon in July, the U.S. Open in September, and the Australian Open in January — beating Nadal in each final. They're the first two men to meet in four straight major finals, and this time, Nadal came out on top, improving his career record at the French Open to 52-1.
"He's definitely (the) best player in history ... on this surface," said Djokovic, "and results are showing that he's one of the best ever."
On Sunday, at the start, Nadal was at his court-covering, shot-whipping best, while Djokovic was so-so. Once the showers grew stronger, the court became more slippery, and the tennis balls heavier and clay-streaked. It was Djokovic who handled the conditions better, pushing around Nadal and reeling off eight straight games.
That allowed Djokovic to win the third set — the first one dropped by Nadal in the tournament — and go ahead a break at 2-0 in the fourth. But at 2-1, play was halted for the day. So was Djokovic's momentum.
Djokovic didn't want to blame his loss on the decision to suspend play Sunday night. Nadal overwhelmed him Monday, winning six of the nine games they played.
"It's unfortunate, because I think I was playing better and I was feeling really well on the court," Djokovic said. "Today he started off really strong. I started a bit slower."
On Monday, Nadal broke Djokovic right away to get to 2-2. They stayed on serve until Nadal led 6-5. With Djokovic trying to force a tiebreaker, he double-faulted on match point.
After so many escapes earlier in the tournament — overcoming a two-set deficit against Andreas Seppi in the fourth round, then erasing four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals — Djokovic was done.
So was his Grand Slam streak.
"Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. I lost this time," Djokovic said. "But I believe that there are still many years to come, and hopefully I can come back stronger."