When play was halted by showers on Sunday, Nadal was clinging to an ever-shrinking lead. It wasn't until a few minutes before setting foot back on Court Philippe Chatrier, his favorite arena at his favorite tournament on his favorite surface, that Nadal set aside his anxiety. Oh, did he. The King of Clay overwhelmed the No. 1-ranked Djokovic for the 50 minutes and nine games they played Monday, wrapping up a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory that allowed Nadal to earn French Open trophy No. 7, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg.
"You never know if you're going to win another one," said the second-ranked Nadal, who now owns 11 Grand Slam titles.
"I don't know if I am the best or not," he added. "I am not the right one to say that."
Djokovic, for his part, had zero doubts. He worked his way back into the match with an eight-game run when it was pouring Sunday, but otherwise was outplayed, at the start and the finish.
"He's definitely [the] best player in history . . . on this surface," said Djokovic, whose 27-match Grand Slam winning streak ended, "and results are showing that he's one of the best ever."
Can't argue with that. Since his French Open debut at age 18 in May 2005, Nadal is 52-1 for his career at the tournament, the only loss coming to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009. He's just as good elsewhere on clay, too: Nadal has won eight titles at Monte Carlo, seven at Barcelona, six at Rome.
Asked to explain his success on the surface, Nadal pointed not to his uppercut of a topspin-slathered forehand, or his superior returns of serve, but rather to his movement, his mental fortitude, and this: "I always was scared to lose."
Djokovic gave Nadal reason for added concern, having beaten him in the finals at Wimbledon in July, the U.S. Open in September, and the Australian Open in January. Djokovic was attempting to be the third man to win four major tournaments in succession, joining Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969.
All-Time Leaders in Grand Slams
Rank Player Slams
1. Roger Federer 16
2. Pete Sampras 14
3. Roy Emerson 12
T4. Bjorn Borg 11
7. Bill Tilden 10
T8. Fred Perry 8
T13. Richard Sears 7
T21. Don Budge 6