ROLAND GARROS 2014
How The Roland Garros Final Was Won: Nadal Upends Djokovic
by Josh Meiseles|
Top seed Rafael Nadal retained his No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking and became the first player in history to win nine titles at a major, rallying past Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in the Roland Garros final.
Djokovic was looking to end Nadal’s current 35-week reign as World No. 1, which began in October 2013, and claim the 'Career Slam' with his first title on the Parisian clay.
Nadal extends his win streak to 35 matches at Roland Garros, improving his FedEx ATP Head2Head to 23-19 against Djokovic. He pulls even with Pete Sampras for second on the all-time Grand Slam titles list with his 14th crown.
Here is how the final unfolded…
FIRST SET – Djokovic 6-3
One of the biggest intangibles entering Sunday’s final was the impact of conditions, particularly how the weather would affect both players’ plans of attack.
With the sun fighting through the clouds and piercing the terre battue on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal’s heavy topspin forehand exploded off the clay in the early stages. But that did not deter the World No. 2.
In their most recent encounter, in Rome, Djokovic stood tall on the baseline, dictating baseline exchanges like an orchestra conductor and crashed the net with authority to shorten rallies.
On this occasion, Djokovic continued to execute his patterns early and often in his service games, pulling Nadal out wide to the forehand to open the court and setting up the passing shot.
They remained on serve until the eighth game, but when Nadal misfired on two forehand errors and a Djokovic backhand winner skidded off the tramline, the Serb earned the first break points of the match. He would secure the break when a Nadal inside-out forehand was pulled wide.
In 11 previous Grand Slam meetings, the winner of the first set went on to capture the match nine times, and Djokovic looked poised to extend the trend. He would survive a pair of break points, and three of eight first serves, while serving for the set up 5-3 to claim the set in 44 minutes.
SECOND SET – Nadal 7-5
Djokovic, who is 7-0 against Nadal when he is No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the man from Mallorca is No. 1, turned in a strong serving performance in the first set (20/24 first serve points won) and it would continue as the second set commenced.
The Serb’s ability to take his backhand early and open the court for his cross-court forehand is second to none, and he continued this pattern with great success in the early moments of the set, inhibiting Nadal from stepping around his own backhand.
Nadal threatened to turn the tide after garnering his first break of the match for a 4-2 lead, but an overcooked forehand in the next game would give the break right back to Djokovic. The lead continued to vacillate towards the business end of the set, with Nadal earning another break point to serve for the set, but Djokovic’s defense prevented a third consecutive break.
With former Roland Garros champions Bjorn Borg, Gustavo Kuerten and Carlos Moya looking on, Djokovic would be broken while serving to force a tie-break as a free-swinging Nadal leveled at a set apiece. The eight-time champion fired 17 winners in the second set, 12 more than he had registered in the first set.
THIRD SET – Nadal 6-2
Djokovic’s depth of shot began to wane in the third set, with Nadal pummeling forehand winners. The momentum swing was swift and devastating for the second-seed, who quickly fell behind 0-3, dropping five straight games while winning a mere five points in that span.
Within a 15-minute period, the trajectory of the match deviated from a victory for Djokovic, as Nadal continued to tee off on the Serb’s second serves and apply pressure off the ground.
Nadal would deny a break point at 3-1 and again staved off a late push from Djokovic in a 10-minute game at 4-2. The Spaniard’s kick serve to the ad court leapt off the clay as he saved his second break point of the set.
He would surge to a double break, ferociously snatching the third set 6-2 behind a stunning offensive onslaught, employing the craft and guile of a champion. Djokovic’s second serve points won dipped from 50 per cent in the first set to a combined 31 per cent (7/22) in the second and third.
FOURTH SET – Nadal 6-4
Djokovic’s baseline game continued to leak unforced errors and his serve would once again come under duress early in the fourth set, as it did in the third.
As both players began to feel the physical toll of their now three-hour battle, Nadal would break for 4-2 when a Djokovic backhand sailed wide. The match seemed to be put on ice with the King of Clay up two sets to one and a break in the fourth.
But the Serb had another twist to the script in mind, securing an immediate break back to pull level.
With the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings hanging in the balance and a fifth set imminent, however, Djokovic could not survive the pressure as he attempted to serve to remain in the match at 5-4. Nadal fired a spellbinding backhand passing shot off his back foot for 30/30, which propelled him past the finish line as Djokovic sent a mid-rally forehand long in the next point and double faulted to hand his rival a ninth Roland Garros title.