Nadal celebrates, Federer waits for Wimbledon
Rafael Nadal equals Bjorn Borg’s record with sixth French Open title
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer at the Roland Garros tournament in Paris on Sunday to equal Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles. Beating Federer 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1 in a little over three and a half hours, Nadal said later: "It's very special to equal the six French Opens of Bjorn Borg - it's an honour to be compared to Borg."
The 25-year-old Spaniard now has 10 Grand Slam titles, one fewer than Borg managed in his career. He is still six behind Federer, but such is Nadal's superiority that commentators now believe that he could one day overtake the Swiss master's haul of 16.
Federer, who had ended Novak Djokovic's 43-match unbeaten run in Friday's semi-final, was playing in his first Grand Slam final in 18 months and the Swiss began the stronger of the two. Nadal found himself trailing 5-2 in the first set but when Federer squandered a set point the Spaniard hit the comeback trail.
Finding his rhythm with his rasping ground strokes, the 25-year-old won the next five games to snatch the first set from Federer's grasp.
"He was a little bit unlucky in the first set, and after that he came back fantastically well in the second," said Nadal of his opponent, though Federer was unable to prevent the Spaniard taking the second set on a tie-break.
In the third set it was Federer who showed his fighting qualities, clawing his way back from a two-game deficit to take the set 7-5 as he tightened his backhand and mixed his game up more.
"In the third set I had 4-2 but I think he played very, very well from that moment to the beginning of the fourth," reflected Nadal. "When Roger plays like this, the opponent cannot do anything sometimes."
Federer had three break points in the first game of the fourth set but the 16-time Grand Slam winner could take none of them. Nadal saved the game and then set about savaging his tiring opponent, winning the decisive set 6-1 to take the title and equal Bjorg's record.
"To win this final against one the best players in the world and in history is something which is really fantastic for me," said Nadal, whose tally of ten Grand Slam titles is bettered by only five men.
The defeat means Federer, 29, is still searching for his first Grand Slam title since winning the 2010 Australian Open, but the Swiss was pleased overall with his performance during the French Open fortnight and is looking forward to Wimbledon where he hopes to win his seventh title.
"That's obviously the huge priority right now, to win Wimbledon in a few weeks' time," he said. "That's always, for me, the number one goal in the season."
As Nadal fell to his knees after Federer’s forehand dropped beyond the baseline on match point, pundits were already wondering whether the young Spaniard could ultimately overtake Federer at the top of the all-time Grand Slam table. At 25, Nadal's haul of major titles has now reached double figures – only Bjorg achieved this younger.
"As he looked across at the only player consistently to challenge his own genius, Nadal may have thought: 'I am, right now, better than you,'" wrote the Guardian's Kevin Mitchell. "The Spaniard will never say such a thing out loud about Federer; perhaps he will never have to. At 25 he has time on his side to overhaul the other man's records."
Federer, meanwhile, is four years Nadal's senior and has long lost the aura of invincibility that defined much of his career. "The Swiss had shown wonderful resilience to come back and play in his first Grand Slam final for a year and a half", the Independent's Paul Newman said. "But this brought reaffirmation of the hold Nadal has over him.
"This most humble and generous of champions has only respect for the man he regards as the greatest player ever," he continued. "In time, nevertheless, that may well be an accolade bestowed on the Spaniard rather than the Swiss."