Rafael Nadal rubber-stamped his credentials as the world's best claycourter
at the French Open on Sunday to once again wreck Roger Federer's grand slam
By bringing the world number one to his knees with a 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4
exhibition, Nadal followed Bjorn Borg to become only the second man in 93 years
to clinch a hat-trick of trophies at Roland Garros.
Just as he did 12 months ago, the irrepressible Spaniard sabotaged Federer's
valiant bid to join American Don Budge and Australian Rod Laver as the only men
to hold all four majors at the same time.
Spain's Rafael Nadal embraces his
trophy after defeating Switzerland's Roger Federer in the men's final
match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris June
10, 2007. Nadal captured a hat-trick of French Open titles with a 6-3 4-6
6-3 6-4 win over world number one Federer on Sunday. [Reuters]
It is a feat that has not been repeated for 38 years.
Federer's search for the elusive claycourt slam he craves will have to go on
the backburner for at least another year thanks to a ragged performance in the
After committing 60 unforced errors and converting only one of 17 break
points during a duel lasting three hours 10 minutes, it came as little surprise
when the Swiss handed victory to Nadal by slamming a forehand long on the first
As the crowd stood up to hail the undisputed king of clay, Nadal promptly
collapsed on to his back, legs splayed, and covered his face in disbelief.
He eventually found the strength to get up and, with the back of his shirt
caked in clay, closed his eyes and held his arms aloft in triumph before
clambering up to the stands to hug his family and friends.
Realising he had turned out to be a huge stumbling block in Federer's quest
for greatness, Nadal told the crowd: "I am really sad for Roger. He is a friend
and a great champion, whether he wins or loses."
"It's true that I feel at home here and I worked extremely hard for this.
It's a dream to win again."
As a disappointed Federer stood on the podium holding his runners-up tray,
visions of what could have been must have flashed through his tortured mind.
Looking on longingly as Nadal hoisted the Musketeers' Cup, the 10-times slam
champion said: "I'm a bit sad but I fought, I tried.
"I know I can do it now, that's for sure. If I get it eventually, the sweeter
it's going to taste."
Federer knew the numbers were stacked against him on Sunday, though.
Nadal had captured 16 claycourt titles, Federer's total stood at six. The
Spaniard had a 20-0 win-loss record in Paris against 26-8 for the Swiss. Most
notably, Federer had come up short in their two previous Roland Garros meetings.
But the 25-year-old harboured hopes of narrowing his 1-5 claycourt record
against Nadal having beaten him just 21 days ago in the final of the Hamburg
That result had pricked Nadal's aura of invincibility as it snapped an
81-match winning steak on red dirt.
Looking for revenge, Nadal had warned: "I'm going to fight and struggle like
a lion to make sure I have three cups at home rather than two."
It did not take Nadal long to bare his teeth.
Prowling the baseline with sweat glistening on his bulging biceps, Nadal
bludgeoned ferocious forehands to save 10 break points in the opening set.
The 21-year-old Spaniard survived five of them in a riveting 17-minute game
which took the score to 3-3.
The precise Swiss timing that usually accompanies Federer's exquisite shots
broke down in the next game and he dropped his serve to love.
Sensing the match was slipping away from Federer's grasp in the second set, a
fan in the stands cried out: "Right now, come on". As if on cue, Federer broke
his Spanish foe for the first time to go 4-3 ahead, ending 80-minutes of growing
He held on to win the set but from then on was left dumbfounded as Nadal
charged towards extending his perfect Roland Garros record to 21-0.