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Mon Apr 21 14:11:59 SAST 2014

All hail the 'King of Clay'

Sapa-AFP | 12 June, 2012 06:460 Comments
Rafael Nadal of Spain can scarcely contain his delight as he holds the trophy at the prize ceremony after beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final of the French Open
Image by: GONZALO FUENTES / GALLO IMAGES

RAFAEL Nadal described his record-setting seventh French Open triumph as an "unforgettable" moment after the world No2 defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 in yesterday's final.

Victory took Nadal past the six Roland Garros titles he shared with Swedish legend Bjorn Borg and his career grand slam total to 11.

"It is an honour and for me, the most important tournament, the greatest in my eyes," said Nadal.

"This is an unforgettable moment for me. There are a lot of emotions. It was a privilege to play against one of the best players in the world."

World No1 Djokovic congratulated Nadal and his team for another title.

"He is a great player. But I hope to come back next year and do even better."

For five-time grand slam winner Djokovic, the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion, it was the end of his dream of emulating Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) by holding all four Grand Slams at once.

The Serb, who now turns his attention to defending his Wimbledon title in two weeks' time, said he was determined to take positives out of reaching his first Roland Garros final.

He was the first player at this year's tournament to break the Nadal serve - doing it seven times in all. But he was undone by his 53 unforced errors. He admitted he had been disappointed when the final had been halted for a second and last time on a rain-plagued Sunday when he had just taken the third set and was 2-1 ahead in the fourth, with a break of serve.

Nadal made his professional debut in September 2001 as a 15-year-old. His first win on the ATP Tour came in Mallorca the following year. By 2003, the world was taking notice when Nadal went through qualifying at the prestigious Monte Carlo Masters and reached the third round.

In 2005 he became the first man since Mats Wilander in 1982 to win the French Open on debut but he has suffered bumps along the way.

His defeat by Robin Soderling at the French Open in 2009 - his only defeat at Roland Garros in 53 matches - came at a time when his long battle with knee injuries threatened to overwhelm him.

He also had to withdraw from Wimbledon, where he had been defending champion.

Nadal was being written off then, as he was in 2011 and into January this year, when he lost seven finals in succession to Djokovic, three of them at grand slams.

The last of those was in Australia where the Serb clinched a six-hour marathon, the longest final of all time in a grand slam.

But Nadal, fit again, clubbed his way into the record books yesterday.

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All hail the 'King of Clay'

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Mon Apr 21 14:12:00 SAST 2014 ::

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