Nadal in seventh heaven as he ends Djokovic dream
Rafa Nadal won a record seventh French Open title on Monday but that tells only half the story of a final which included temper tantrums, rain suspensions and the end of Novak Djokovic's grand-slam dream.
The number two seed overtook Sweden's Bjorn Borg, who won six times at Roland Garros, but in the process struck the latest blow in what has become one of the greatest rivalries in tennis.
After losing three consecutive grand slam finals to the Serbian, his 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 win stopped the world number one from becoming only the third man to win four consecutive majors.
That would have been an achievement unrivalled in 43 years, since Rod Laver completed the feat for the second time.
The only shame was that a match which had ebbed and flowed with excitement, had endured the roller coaster of a Sunday suspension and the drama of a Monday finish, should end in the ignominy of a double fault.
"For me it is a great honor," Nadal said, clutching the Musketeers Cup under his arm, after the presentation ceremony on court.
"This tournament is probably the most special in the world and having this trophy with me I am really emotional. It is probably one of the most special moments in my career."
This was the first time there had been a late finish at the French Open since 1973 after play had been suspended on Sunday when darkening skies and persistent drizzle made a continuation impossible.
The last major final between the pair had been at the Australian Open in January, which at five hours 53 minutes was the longest men's grand slam final on record.
This final had been brewing towards another classic when the match referee called time on Sunday's action.
Djokovic started badly and let everyone know how he felt about it, smashing a gaping hole in his courtside bench in one particular moment of frustration.
He fought back, though, breaking Nadal seven times on Sunday, which is seven times more than all his other opponents had managed in six previous matches.
That had left the encounter on a knife-edge with Nadal leading by two sets to one but a break down in the fourth.
Menacing clouds hung low above Court Philippe Chatrier as the players strode out to resume battle on Monday, while the weather forecast suggested a quick finish was required or everyone might have to return again on Tuesday.
Nadal was in no mood for procrastination.
The Spaniard broke back in the first game after the resumption, having rediscovered the penetrating fizz that deserted him in the damp conditions of the previous evening.
Then he had moaned vociferously about the wet surface that made conditions underfoot treacherous and the ball hard to see - he tossed one at the umpire to prove his point.
He came out refreshed on Monday, however, with the bit between his teeth.
He was back to the player who had raced into a 3-0 lead in the first set on Sunday, managing to generate his vicious top spin on the dry balls.
After Monday's early break, Djokovic did all he could to resist the Mallorcan's charge, holding serve until the 12th game when Nadal conjured up a forehand winner after a 10-shot rally to set up match point.
Djokovic's dream ended with a double fault. Nadal sank to his knees in celebration before parading the trophy in front of the dedicated fans who had returned to see the match to a conclusion.
His seven wins matched the French Open women's record set by American Chris Evert in the 1970s and 1980s.
"He's definitely the best player in history on this surface," a dejected Djokovic, 25, told reporters.
"Results are showing that he's one of the best���ever players that have played this game. He's only 26 years old.
"We are very young, and we played over 30 times against each other, and hopefully we can have many more battles in the next years."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)