King of Clay: Rafael Nadal Defeats Novak Djokovic, Wins Ninth French Open

King of Clay: Rafael Nadal Defeats Novak Djokovic, Wins Ninth French Open

Spaniard Rafael Nadal may have the greatest “home-court” advantage in sports when he plays at Roland Garros.

Nadal won his ninth French Open title on Sunday to continue his reign as the King of Clay defeating Novak Djokovic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, in grueling conditions that pushed both men to the limit. Nadal has won 35 straight games at Roland Garros. His career record at the French Open? 66-1. 

Nadal now has 14 Grand Slam singles titles and is tied with Pete Sampras for second all-time. Roger Federer tops the list at 17.

Djokovic needs a French Open title to complete his career Grand Slam, and he has been relentless in his pursuit of it. But he came up short again. 

He dominated the first set with two aces, owned the court and appeared to be on his way to victory.

In the second set, Djokovic and Nadal broke each other back and forth. But it did not take long to see that Djokovic was not feeling well. It was a hot day in Paris, and his face paled with every stroke. Something was not well and Nadal took advantage of it and won the set 7-5 though Djokovic still had some openings to go up 2-0 in the match.

Djokovic did not recover when the third set began. He threw up on the court and rushed to the side to drink a pop to settle his stomach. It almost helped as he came back after being down 4-1 while Nadal, who is also recovering from injuries, started seeing his body break down a bit. Spectators could tell his back was giving again him problems. Djokovic made it 2-4 and almost made it 3-4 before Nadal held off the rally to win the set 6-2.

Neither man was going to give up and both showed the world why they are #1 and #2, respectively. Puking and bad backs did not stop these two! Djokovic fought back and made it to 4-4 before Nadal found some last-minute energy. But when Djokovic double-faulted on the match’s final point, Nadal had his ninth French Open title and all that was left was for him to bit the trophy in his patented way. But Nadal, visibly emotional in his post-match remarks, had trouble lifting the trophy due to his bad back. 

Both men are beloved in the tennis world and when Djokovic was awarded his trophy the entire stadium erupted. It was one of the loudest and longest applause for a runner-up in any tennis tournament.

The next Grand Slam is Wimbledon on June 23. Andy Murray, who beat Djokovic in the finals in 2013, will attempt to defend his title.

Here are a few pictures and videos from today’s final.