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A feat to remember as Nadal trumps Borg

Date

Darren Walton

Rafael Nadal ... has now won seven French Open titles.

Rafael Nadal ... has now won seven French Open titles. Photo: Reuters

PARIS: Claycourt colossus Rafael Nadal has shattered Novak Djokovic's grand slam dream with a drama-charged French Open final triumph in Paris.

After a nerve-racking overnight wait, Nadal returned to Roland Garros yesterday to complete a suspense-filled 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over the world No.1 after the most anticipated match of the year had been controversially suspended on Sunday because of rain.

In thwarting Djokovic's quest to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four majors, Nadal etched his own name in the tennis history books by surpassing Bjorn Borg with an unprecedented seven Roland Garros crowns.

Rafael Nadal ... beat Novak Djokovic and the Paris rain.

Rafael Nadal ... beat Novak Djokovic and the Paris rain. Photo: AP

''I hope to come back next year and play even better,'' Djokovic said after his defeat.

''For me it is really an honour [beating Bjorg],'' Nadal said. ''This tournament is probably the most important in the world to me. I'm really emotional. Probably one of the most special moments in my career.''

The 26-year-old also joined Borg and Rod Laver in equal fourth place on the all-time grand slam leaderboard with 11 career majors.

Clay king ... Rafel Nadal drops to his knees after defeating Novak Djokovic to secure a record seventh French Open win.

Clay king ... Rafel Nadal drops to his knees after defeating Novak Djokovic to secure a record seventh French Open win. Photo: Reuters

Only Roger Federer (16), Pete Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12) have won more, and now the chase to reel in Federer's record haul is suddenly back on after the Spaniard broke a painful run of three consecutive grand slam final losses to Djokovic.

The Serb had been threatening a sporting miracle when the final continued in showers and sunshine yesterday, with the top seed leading 2-1 with a service break in the fourth set.

He had trailed by two sets and 2-0 on Sunday before winning eight straight games in an extraordinary turnaround as Nadal moaned to tournament referee Stefan Fransson about playing in persistent drizzle for almost three hours before the match was abandoned for the night.

Beaten ... Serbia's Novak Djokovic.

Beaten ... Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: AP

The prospect of Djokovic being only the second player in 76 matches to conquer Nadal in a best-of-five-sets claycourt encounter could not be ruled out.

In an incredible 27-match grand slam winning streak, Djokovic saved two match points in last year's US Open semi-finals against Roger Federer, recovered from a service break down in the fifth set to deny Nadal in a near-six-hour epic Australian Open decider and fought off four more match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals in Paris last week.

The Serb also trailed Andreas Seppi two sets to love in the fourth round. But a comeback from two sets and a break down against the greatest claycourter in history proved beyond even this modern-day tennis Houdini.

Nadal broke Djokovic in the first game upon the resumption yesterday to level at 2-2 in the fourth set.

He then took the match on a Djokovic double-fault and burst into tears after three hours and 49 tension-filled minutes - three hours on Sunday and 49 minutes yesterday.

Djokovic had been striving to become the first man since Laver in 1969 to complete a calendar grand slam - and only third ever including Don Budge in 1938 - after claiming the Wimbledon, US and Australian Open trophies in six months.

Conquering Nadal on red dirt has proven nigh impossible since he captured his maiden French Open on debut as an 18-year-old in 2005.

He's lost just once in 53 matches at his Paris fortress - to Swede Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 when Nadal's knees failed him and forced him to abandon his subsequent Wimbledon title defence two weeks later.

AAP

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