Paris, France – Rafael Nadal captured an unprecedented eighth French Open title on Sunday with a straight-set win over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Nadal used a combination of superior range and power to post a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory on the famed red clay at Stade Roland Garros. The No. 3 seed became the only man with eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament.
"Eight times here is a lot," Nadal remarked. "I never thought about that. But I will keep practicing with the same passion and intensity to bring my tennis to the highest level possible."
Rain periodically fell, intensifying at some points, throughout the match, but the weather didn't interrupt play. However, the final was briefly halted late in the second set when a protester jumped onto Court Chatrier with a flare as Nadal prepared to serve in the seventh game. The individual was swiftly subdued by security and the flare extinguished.
The unsettling moment likely rattled Nadal and Ferrer as both players followed with erratic service games. Nadal was broken at 15, while Ferrer failed to win a point as Nadal closed out the set.
Nadal broke three times in each of the first two sets and then won the first two games of the third. Ferrer rallied with the help of a break to even the set at 3-all and had a chance to seize the lead with a break point in the seventh game. Nadal, though, was able to hold after a trio of Ferrer shots strayed long.
A Ferrer double fault gave Nadal a 5-3 edge and he fittingly completed the match with a blistering forehand winner.
"I think the score is much easier than what the match was today," Nadal stated. "I think for moments I played great. I think a few moments in the match, I played at very, very high level."
The 27-year-old clay king is now 59-1 all-time at the French Open, the most wins in the tournament's illustrious history. His lone setback came against Robin Soderling in the round of 16 in 2009.
Since returning in February from a left knee injury that sidelined him for seven months, Nadal has gone 43-2 and reached the finals of all nine tournaments he's entered, winning seven of them.
The mighty Mallorcan claimed his 12th Grand Slam title to move into a tie for third place with Roy Emerson on the all-time list behind Roger Federer's 17 and Pete Sampras' 14.
Nadal now owns 57 career titles, including 42 on clay. Only Guillermo Vilas has more clay court titles in the Open Era with 46.
Ferrer, the fourth seed and a first-time Grand Slam finalist, consolidated a break with a hold to go up 3-2 in the first set.
Nadal then took control by winning seven straight games. He saved a break point before firing an ace to grab a 5-3 lead, and the opening set concluded when Ferrer sent a backhander into the net to get broken.
Ferrer squandered a break point to begin the second set. Nadal didn't on his countryman's next service game as he sprinted across the court from behind the baseline and secured the break with another tremendous forehand winner. A hold at love gave Nadal a 3-0 lead before Ferrer fought off two break points and held when Nadal found the net with a backhand.
Nadal grinded out a lengthy fifth game, saving four break points. He then converted a fourth break point with a bludgeoned forehand to go up 5-1 before play was momentarily stopped because of the person wielding a flare.
Ferrer, 31, had not dropped a set en route to his first major final.
"To beat Rafael [on a] clay court, I need to play more aggressive," Ferrer admitted. "I need to finish the points at the net and play my best tennis to beat him."
Despite losing his ninth straight match to Nadal, Ferrer will climb over him to the No. 4 spot in the world rankings. Nadal will slide down to No. 5.
Sunday's final marked the fourth all-Spanish matchup in Grand Slam history, with all coming at Roland Garros.