Rafael Nadal defeated David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday to win the French Open. Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win the same Grand Slam tournament eight times.
In winning the first all-Spanish final since 2002, Nadal collected his eighth title in nine attempts and improved to 59-1 at Roland Garros. He also became the first man to win a major title nine years in a row and is now tied for third with Roy Emerson with 12 Slams. Roger Federer leads with 17 and Pete Sampras has 14.
While the win was routine -- as expected, Nadal outclassed Ferrer on every metric -- the match was not. Protesters repeatedly interrupted the match with chanting from the crowd, but the most frightening moment occurred late in the second set, when a shirtless demonstrator ran onto the court wielding a lit flare. He was quickly tackled by security a few feet from where Nadal was standing. Unfortunately, that incident sucked any energy out of the match.
Game-by-game analysis of Nadal's historic win after the jump.
12:07 a.m. ET | Championship trophy ceremony
During his on-court interview, Nadal breaks out into a huge smile when he's told he's the first man to win the same Slam eight times in the Open Era. He thanks the crowd in both English and French, and credits his team for supporting him during "the hard times."
Usain Bolt cleans up well. He's rocking that suit well. As for those who are wondering why Yannick Noah, in the 30th anniversary of his title, isn't presenting the trophies, I'm told it's because he never wants to do it. Besides, with Noah's repeated claims that Spanish athletes are doping, let's just say it would have been awkward if he were up there to present the trophies for an all-Spanish final. Which is to say, I totally would have wanted to see that.
Ferrer and Nadal are called up to claim their prizes and Ferrer holds up his platter as though he has every intention of throwing it into the Seine the minute this is through. Nadal punches his eighth Coupe des Mousquetaires in the air and as the Spanish national anthem plays, he tears up. This must mean so much to him after being forced to skip the London Olympics last year. He says that decision was the toughest moment of his seven-month injury layoff. He was supposed to carry the flag and everything.
I guess if you have an all-Spanish final in France, the language of choice during the trophy ceremony is Spanish. I'm not sure if anyone in the crowd knows what Nadal is saying, but he's saying ... a lot.
"I didn't play so good, but Rafael was better," Ferrer tells John McEnroe. He admits he was nervous before and during the match. "Maybe I need more experience in the final of a Grand Slam. ... With Rafael, it is impossible to beat him if I am not quiet and playing my game."
"Well, that's just amazing," Nadal says as McEnroe counts off Nadal's eight French Open titles on his fingers. "That's a lot. That's more than I even dream about these things. But here we are today."
We might need to call a medical time-out for Nadal, who is on the verge of spraining a whole lot of facial muscles with his smile.
"I felt a little bit scared in the first moment," Nadal says when asked about "the stupid crazy idiot" who ran on the court. "But these kind of things are impossible to predict. When then these kind of things happen, we are lucky to have very good security on the court."
11:35 a.m. ET | Final stats
Nadal: He had five aces and two double faults. He served at 70 percent and won 70 percent of his first-serve points and 42 percent of his second-serve points. He hit 34 winners and 25 unforced errors.
Ferrer: He had one ace and five double faults. He served at 62 percent and won 58 percent of his first-serve points and 25 percent of his second-serve points. He hit 22 winners and 35 unforced errors.
11:31 a.m. ET | Nadal defeats Ferrer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
The men trade holds to 4-3, but Nadal finally breaks Ferrer after a lengthy game to lead 5-3. Nadal will serve for his eighth French Open title.
The crowd has been taken completely out of the match since the protester interrupted play at the end of the second set. The fact that the match has always felt like a foregone conclusion doesn't help inspire much energy.
As Nadal walks to the service line with two championship points, he has the look of a man who feels thoroughly guilty about the fact that he's about to put a good friend out of his misery. With a forehand winner, he's done it! Nadal falls to the clay and the good friends hug at the net.
Nadal becomes the first man to win any Grand Slam tournament eight times. Incredible.
Well, you can't say that was a routine win, even if it was a routine win.
And now there is a shirtless man on court, but it's the one we're probably all OK with. Whistles rain down as Nadal does his standard post-win shirt change.
11:09 a.m. ET | Nadal leads, 3-2*
The men trade holds. If Ferrer wants to make a move he has to do it here, while Nadal's mind is still perhaps on other things.
11:04 a.m. ET | Nadal and Ferrer trade breaks, Nadal leads, 2-1*
It's difficult to focus on the tennis after that very 15 confusing minutes. And I'm not even playing the match. It's hard not to feel for Ferrer, who's playing in his first Slam final, taking on the King of Clay at Roland Garros and having to dodge real, actual fire. Someone please pull him aside and assure him that Slam finals aren't usually like this.
This tennis match is now just ... awkward. There's no rhythm to it, and points that were ending with crowd-pleasing winners are now ending in errors. Nadal can't consolidate the break and Ferrer is back on serve.
Rain has started to fall again. If I'm the tournament referee, I call the rain delay and let these guys go off court to clear their minds and give everyone a moment to reset. Ferrer doesn't want to play in the rain. He's sitting down on the changeover as Nadal is up and ready to play. Eventually, Ferrer is convinced to play on and play resumes.
10:48 a.m. ET | Nadal wins the second set, leads 6-3, 6-2.
A protest of some sort has broken out in the top deck of Chatrier. Nadal is just staring up there waiting for it be taken care of as the crowd boos and whistles. Weird. That's bad luck for Ferrer, who is down 15-30 when he has to wait out that delay for a few minutes.
Ferrer loses the first point when play resumes to fall behind 15-40, but gamely saves both break points to get back to deuce. But a backhand error gives Nadal another break point and he doesn't miss this one, hitting a backhand winner for a 5-1 lead.
And now a shirtless protester has run down on court with an ignited flare! Nadal sprints towards the court exit to get away from the guy. Court security tackles the man over the barrier and he's finally taken off court. A fire extinguisher is taken to the flame.
Nadal now has to try to serve out this set? Ridiculous. Nadal is broken, and then Ferrer is broken at love for the set. What a stupid ending to that set, which was no fault of the players. How were they expected to play good tennis after that?
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Monica Seles' on-court stabbing. I wrote a post about tennis security issues and I'll just reiterate what I wrote then: "I get absolutely livid when I see incidents like these. In a sport that has seen the most horrific attack on a star player rewrite the course of tennis history, these security breaches — again, I repeat, these are happening at the Slams — are shocking."
10:32 a.m. ET | Nadal leads, 4-1*.
As the match clock ticks past one hour, Nadal has won seven straight games. There's no cruise control for Nadal, though. Up 6-3, 3-0, 30-0, Nadal misses a lob wide and smacks himself in the forehead in frustration. And here I thought only Serena did that.
It turns out that really was a crucial miss. Ferrer fights back from 0-30 to hold after the longest game of the match so far. That was huge for Ferrer.
Nadal is starting to slip and slide a bit on court -- in a bad way, not in a "Hey, look how much fun clay is!" kind of way -- and he shoots a look to the umpire as the crowd is still sitting under umbrellas. He falls behind 15-40 on his serve but saves both break points with two big forehands and eventually holds to 4-1. The game was highlighted by a 29-shot rally in which Nadal saved a break point with his incredible defense and punctuated with a backhand pass. Ferrer could not play a better point than he did there. Oh, well.
That's the third game in which Ferrer has had at least one break point (had four here) and failed to convert.
10:11 a.m. ET | Nadal leads, 3-0*.
Nadal serves to start the second set and Ferrer gets yet another look at a break point. By my count, this is the third game in which he's had a break point but so far he's broken only once. He's not playing the big points particularly well, whether they be break points, deuce points or 30-30 points. Nadal saves break points and eventually holds when Ferrer nets a cross-court backhand.
Nadal consolidates his early break and he's now won six straight games. This set could go quickly and Ferrer has to be praying for the rain to come to give him a moment to catch his breath. We've seen this before in their matches, where Ferrer pushes Nadal and fails to take advantage of his chances, then goes away in the remaining sets. Ferrer has failed to win more than two games in any of the final sets of their last five matches, with two of those ending 6-0.
Ferrer's prayers may have been answered. Umbrellas are popping up courtside as the rain begins to fall.
9:55 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks to win the first set 6-3.
Nadal tries to consolidate his break but once again finds himself in trouble on his serve. Ferrer gets a break point but Nadal saves and holds with some good serve and forehand combinations.
Ferrer is serving to stay in the set at 3-5 but a double fault gives Nadal set points. Nadal converts and what felt like a treacherous first set for the defending champion turns out to be a 6-3 win.
I have to agree with The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta here:
Ferrer: He had one ace and two double faults. He served at 72 percent and won 55 percent of his first-serve points and 25 percent of his second-serve points. He hit seven winners and 12 unforced errors. He converted 1-of-3 break points.
Nadal: He had one ace and no double faults. He served at 78 percent and won 58 percent of his first-serve points and 50 percent of his second-serve points. He hit 11 winners and nine unforced errors. He converted 3-of-5 break points.
It really felt like Nadal hit far more errors than that but he did clean things up in the latter half of the set.
9:42 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks leads *4-3.
We've got another break for Nadal, who overcomes a few loose forehands to nail a crosscourt pass to seal the break.
Let's stop for a moment and consider what Nadal has done since returning after a seven-month absence in February. He's played nine tournaments, made nine finals and compiled a 42-2 record. He leads the men's tour with three Masters titles (Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome). Despite missing the Australian Open, where a huge chunk of points is up for grabs, Nadal has earned more rankings points this year than anyone, including Aussie Open champ Djokovic. Ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous, how about the fact that Nadal will drop to No. 5 behind Ferrer in the ATP rankings on Monday regardless of whether he wins this match? The rankings anomaly is explained by the fact that Nadal missed seven of the last 12 months, but given what he's done over the last four months, there's no doubt he'll make a hard charge for the year-end No. 1 ranking. It's well within his sights if he can play well on grass and hard courts. It should be noted, though, that of the nine tournaments he's played this year, eight have been on clay. It should also be noted that the one hard-court tournament he played was Indian Wells, where he beat both Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro to win the title.
9:29 a.m. ET | Ferrer breaks back, 3-2*.
Two unforced errors from Nadal and Ferrer has an opening at 30-30 on Nadal's serve. The heavy conditions will mitigate Nadal's topspin, but Ferrer doesn't have the power to take advantage of that to hit through the court the way a Robin Soderling could, or the way Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan did earlier in the tournament. But maybe Rafa is trying to add more topspin to his forehand, because he yanks one wide to give Ferrer a break point.
Lower-ranked players always talk about having to take advantage of these small opportunities against the top guys. But Ferrer sends a backhand return long on break point. He earns break point No. 2 with a perfect drop shot and backhand-down-the-line combination. So far, Nadal's movement isn't crisp (he's fairly flat-footed when he's hitting). Ferrer breaks after the longest rally of the match when Nadal nets a backhand.
Nadal is misfiring enough to let Ferrer off the hook on too many points. He has a forehand passing shot he should have nailed up the line at 15-30 and he can't believe it when he hears the "out" call. Yes, Rafa, you smacked it long. Ferrer consolidates the break after Nadal nets another forehand and the older Spaniard leads 3-2.
This is solid stuff from Ferrer, obviously. Have to believe Nadal will find his way as the blood starts pumping.
9:24 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks, *2-1.
A love hold for Ferrer to start. John McEnroe believes this match will be closer than people think, citing Ferrer's competitiveness and Nadal's possible fatigue after playing four hours and 37 minutes on Friday to beat Djokovic.
Of course, Nadal will take great offense to anyone who doesn't give Ferrer the respect he deserves. "[[T]he person who [is] not respecting David as one of the greatest players of the world -- and not for one year, for a long time -- is because that person doesn't know nothing about tennis," Nadal said on Saturday. "That's the real thing. Sorry, but when I read a few things about semifinals, Tsonga against David, seems like Tsonga gonna have ‑‑ was a good semifinals for Tsonga. I never felt that way. Is true that it's Paris and Tsonga is a great champion, too. But you play against David best-of-five on clay -- [it's] a very, very tough match."
Nadal holds, and already he's getting Ferrer on the move and getting to the net. So far he's approached cross-court to Ferrer's forehand, daring him to try to pass him. Ferrer hasn't yet.
Here's what Ferrer had to say about the prospect of taking on Nadal in his first Slam final. "Well, it is very difficult to beat Rafael in all the surfaces, but in clay I think I need to play my best tennis to beat him. I need to play very aggressive all the match."
Nadal breaks. So yeah.
9:13 a.m. ET | Warm-up
It's a cloudy and damp day in Paris and the Nadal and Ferrer take the court. Rain is forecast today (50 percent chance as the match starts), but hopefully there's a big enough window to get this match in the books. Much of that will depend on Ferrer. Nadal crushed him in the semifinals here last year in an hour and 46 minutes. And that included a short rain delay.
As I sit here, I'm trying to decide which seemed like the more foregone conclusion: Serena Williams beating Maria Sharapova -- who had not defeated Williams since 2004 -- in yesterday's women's final, or Nadal beating Ferrer today. After much deliberation (four seconds), I've decided it's today's final. That's a credit to just how good Nadal is on clay and how difficult it is to beat him in a best-of-five match in Paris. He's lost here once -- ONCE -- in nine years. That's a monopoly that would have made even Standard Oil nervous.
Ferrer will serve first. Ready? Play.
Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal and first-time Grand Slam finalist David Ferrer will meet in the final of the French Open on Sunday. The match will follow the women's doubles final and is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET. NBC will have the broadcast.
Nadal, 27, is seeking his eighth French Open title in nine appearances. The third seed improved to 58-1 at Roland Garros by rallying from a break down in the fifth set to defeat No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7 in the semifinals on Friday. He advanced to his 17th major final, seven shy of Roger Federer's record of 24.
Ferrer is playing the best tennis of his career at age 31. He's made the semifinals in four of the last five majors, and the fourth seed took the next step on Friday by dismissing France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Ferrer hasn't dropped a set in six matches in Paris. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, the fifth-ranked Ferrer will pass the fourth-ranked Nadal in the rankings on Monday.