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2012: In Seventh Heaven

Paris, France

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal clinched a record-breaking seventh Roland Garros trophy.

Two-time reigning champion Rafael Nadal made Roland Garros history on Monday, defeating top-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in a rain-delayed final that spanned two days to capture his seventh title in Paris, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg for the most trophies in tournament history.

"For me it is a real honour. Borg is one of the greatest in history, one of the more charismatic players in history," Nadal said in a post-match interview with John McEnroe. "The comparison with the great Bjorn is fantastic. He's always been very nice to me, so I have to say thanks."

Added Nadal in his press conference, "For me, it is a real emotional day, winning another time here. Sure, the seventh is important because I am the player who has more today, but like I said yesterday: that's after. For me, the important thing is to win Roland Garros even if it's the first, second, third, or seventh [time]. That's what makes me very happy. [I'm] very happy [with] the way that I played today, because I played much more aggressive."

With his 11th Grand Slam crown, Nadal moves into a third-place tie with Borg for the most major singles championships in the Open Era. He also becomes just the 10th player in Open Era history to win 50 titles on the ATP World Tour, with 36 of his successes occurring on clay.

Djokovic was bidding to join Rod Laver as the only men’s player to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time since 1969, having topped Nadal in the previous three major finals. He was aiming to become the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win back-to-back titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. The loss snapped his 27-match Grand Slam winning streak and he dropped to a 5-3 record in major finals. The World No. 1 had won two five-set thrillers during his run to the final, rallying from a two-sets-to-love deficit against Andreas Seppi in the round of 16, and edging Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a five-set quarter-final clash after saving four match points.

 "I could easily have lost the match in fourth round or even more against Tsonga, but I managed to come to the final for the first time in my career. I should be happy about that," said Djokovic. "I thought we played a fantastic match where people hopefully enjoyed yesterday and today, and I was even surprised with the number of people who attended this match today. It was a working day, but it was still a full stadium. It's beautiful. These matches make you feel like all the work that you put into it is worth [it]."

In a tussle between the Top 2 players in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, Nadal was the more consistent player in the first two sets, overcoming cold, heavy conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier to lead 6-3, 5-3 before rain interrupted the final.

After a 34-minute rain delay, Nadal broke Djokovic with a stunning backhand pass to take a two-set lead. He seemed to be in command of the match, after breaking Djokovic to move ahead 2-0 in the third set. But the Serbian dug in to win six consecutive games, claiming his first set in 11 attempts against Nadal in Paris. Djokovic continued to control the momentum early in the fourth set, holding a 2-1 break advantage before rained halted play for the day.

When play resumed Monday, Nadal immediately broke back to level at 2-all after his netcord opened up the court for a routine winner. After five more service holds, a brief delay stopped play, before Djokovic held to 5-all. But Nadal stepped up in the final two games, holding in a tight game for a 6-5 lead, and then ripping a forehand winner at 30-all in the ensuing game to set up championship point. Djokovic then tossed in his fourth double fault to send Nadal to his knees, who wrapped up the final victory in three hours and 49 minutes.

Entering the final, Nadal was the first man in the Open Era to reach five Grand Slam finals without losing a set. He is now 5-0 in those tournament runs, and four of those triumphs have come at Roland Garros. The 26 year old has won 52 of his 53 matches in Paris, with his only blip coming at the hands of Robin Soderling in the round of 16 three years ago.

Since falling to Djokovic in the longest Grand Slam final clash in history at the Australian Open to lose his seventh consecutive title match to the Serbian, Nadal has won three straight meetings, all coming in clay-court finals. He beat Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Rome and Monte-Carlo. With Sunday's victory, Nadal increased his FedEx ATP Head 2 Head series lead over Djokovic to a 19-14 mark.

"I had lost three Grand Slam finals in a row to him," Nadal said. "That's why it was important for me to win, and this is why I was a bit more nervous and there was a lot of emotions."

Note: Frenchman Max Decugis won eight Roland Garros titles in 1903-04, '07-09, '12-14. But the French championships did not invite international players to compete at the tournament until 1925.

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