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Roland Garros Final Set By Set Analysis

Paris, France

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal will continue his quest for a seventh Roland Garros title Monday.

Here is how Rafael Nadal won the Roland Garros final.

First Set
Nadal made an immediate statement, racing to 0/40 and soon after converted his fourth break point to take an early lead. It was an ominous start as Djokovic knew that his own chances to break Nadal – who had dropped serve just once en route to the final – would likely be scarce.

Djokovic’s game plan was on display early. He was willing to hit wide to the dangerous Nadal forehand in an attempt to open up the backhand. But Nadal was up to the challenge early, cracking a series of crisp winners.

Nadal held to love as part of an eight-point winning streak as Djokovic began to second guess his shot selection. Djokovic tentatively approached the net only to see Nadal sear a forehand pass down the line to bring up two more break points in the third game and two points later the Serb pushed a forehand wide to go down a double break at 0-3.

From a perfect six of six on service points through 30/0, Nadal stumbled in the fourth game, allowing Djokovic back into the game, and dropped serve for just the second time in the tournament. Hindered by a double fault at deuce in the sixth game, Nadal surrendered serve a second consecutive time as Djokovic levelled the match at 3-all – a scenario that looked all but impossible after Nadal’s dominant start to the match.

 It was an astonishing turnaround given how sharp and focussed Nadal had been in the first three games. Roland Garros fans were left to wonder how one the fiercest competitors in the history of the sport had let his opponent work back into the match after such a suffocating start.

Needleless to say, Djokovic would have been highly disappointed to have worked so hard to draw level only to drop serve in the following game – through a double fault, no less. Nadal held for 5-3 and then the set went on serve until Nadal closed it out at 6-4

See Detailed Match Stats (PDF, courtesy IBM)

Second Set
Djokovic faced two break points in the opening game of the second set: He saved the first with an incredible angled forehand from deep behind the baseline and on the dead run but then, for the second time in the match, dropped serve with a double fault.

In the fourth game, and for the second time in the set, Djokovic brought up a break point with a backhand winner against Nadal at net. He converted his opportunity with a forehand topspin lob to draw level at 2-2, just as fans again brought out their umbrellas as light rain returned.

Djokovic was again broken in the seventh game of the set, when Nadal, from behind the baseline, created an angle for himself in the deuce court by stepping around his backhand and rifling an inside out forehand deep into Djokovic’s forehand court. Nadal then held for 5-3 before the rain forced players from the court.

After a 34-minute rain delay Nadal broke Djokovic to take the set 6-3. On set point Djokovic thundered a short forehand deep to Nadal’s backhand, but the Spaniard absorbed the pace and reflexed a crosscourt winner past the incoming Serb.


Third Set
Nadal looked headed for a record seventh Roland Garros title after breaking Djokovic in the opening game of the third set and holding for 2-0. But in an astonishing turn of events, Djokovic won six straight games to see Nadal drop his first set at Roland Garros since his five-set win over John Isner in the first round of 2011. Djokovic, looking for a way back into the match, begun to hit flatter, harder and deeper. His aggression paid off.

Djokovic, who made 30 unforced errors in the first two sets, tightened his game to concede just eight unforced errors in the third set. Importantly, he also gave Nadal a look at just six second serves. In the opening two sets the Serb won just 41 percent of second serves.

For Nadal, it was just the third time in 53 Roland Garros matches that he had won two or fewer games in a set ('09 4th rd. vs. Robin Soderling and '06 final vs. Roger Federer).

Fourth set
Djokovic’s improbable comeback continued unabated at the start of the fourth set. Facing break point in the first game, Nadal took a high-bouncing midcourt forehand and approached the net to Djokovic’s backhand. The Serb responded with a sharply-angled cross-court winner to win his seventh straight game. Djokovic then extended to eight Nadal’s worst game-losing streak in his 53 matches at Roland Garros before the six-time champion held serve to trail 1-2 before referee Stefan Fransson called a second rain delay.

The players were told around 7:45 p.m. that play had been suspended for the night and that the final would resume at 1:00 p.m. CEST Monday. Nadal leads 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2.

When play resumed Monday under threatening skies shortly after 1 p.m., Nadal emerged in hyper-aggressive form, intent on seizing his destiny. In the first game after the resumption, Nadal earned a break point at 30/40 and saw his netcord dribble over; Djokovic made ground but was left with few options other than to go up the line, where Nadal was waiting and responded with a winning crosscourt backhand pass to break back for 2-all.

At 3-4 Djokovic faced danger and came up clutch. At 30-all he served and volleyed (Nadal netted the backhand return) and then fired an ace to draw level at 4-all. Light rain forced a momentary delay at 5-4, although players did not leave the court. Djokovic responded with his strongest game of the day, working Nadal from side to side, hitting for the lines en route to holding to 15.

Nadal held for 6-5, forcing Djokovic to again hold to keep the final alive. At 30-all Nadal jumped on a floating midcourt ball to clock a forehand winner into the open deuce court to set up his first championship point. Djokovic double faulted on match point.

In the final nine games Monday, Nadal dropped just three points on serve and converted both break point chances - in the first and last games of the day - on Djokovic's serve. 

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