Nadal seals magnificent seven

PARIS (Reuters) - A gaping hole on a smashed-up on-court bench bore testament to how maddening it is to play Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros as the Spaniard was hailed as the 'greatest ever claycourt player' after hoisting the French Open trophy for a record seventh time.

Novak Djokovic found plenty of uses for his racket during a soggy final which spilled into a second day on Monday. The world number one slammed it to the ground, sent debris flying everywhere after smashing it into his courtside bench and even whacked his head repeatedly with it.

But it simply could not conjure the strokes that would have allowed the Serb to become the first man in 43 years to win four grand slams in a row and instead Djokovic, with a sore head and tortured soul, fired a double fault that prompted Nadal sink to his knees following a 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 victory.

The high-stakes showdown had started at 1517 local time on Sunday under menacing grey skies, was contested mainly through driving rain, and ended almost 23 hours later in a sudden burst of sunshine with a triumphant Nadal curled into a foetal position in the most famous arena in claycourt tennis.

On a court that has become a private stage for his jaw-dropping skills, Nadal eclipsed the record he shared with Bjorn Borg and showed the man who had defeated him in the last three grand slam finals that this was his stomping ground.

But unlike Borg, who quit the sport at 26, the same age as Nadal is now, the insatiable Spaniard still hungers to extend his astonishing Roland Garros run which now stands at 52-1, with a 7-0 record in the finals.

"He's definitely best player in history on this surface, and results are showing that he's one of the best‑ever players that played this game," Djokovic told reporters after his 27-match winning streak at the slams was ended by Nadal in the three hours 50 minute duel.


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