Rafael Nadal captures eighth French Open crown

11:03 AM, Jun 9, 2013   |    comments
Rafael Nadal runs down this backhand volley. Christophe Ena, AP
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PARIS - Rafael Nadal defeated David Ferrer in the final on Sunday to capture his record eighth French Open crown.

Nadal continued his dominance of his countryman - he is 20-4 and has won nine in a row - with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

At the end, Nadal's celebration was subdued - a quick collapse to the clay - following the victory against friendly rival Ferrer, who was playing in his first Grand Slam final.

Eight French Open titles, based on what he has showed this year, most certainly won't be enough.

He runs his record at Roland Garros to 59-1, the only loss coming to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.

Nadal sat out seven months with a knee injury, returning in February. He has played nine tournaments, winning seven and reaching the final in the two he lost. He's 43-2 with seven titles in nine tournaments, and he has won his past 22 matches.

His road to the final began slowly, with opening-set losses in his first- and second-round matches. His play improved as the fortnight progressed, including a classic semifinal showdown against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

Nadal held off Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 9-7 in a match that lasted nearly five hours.

Nadal captures his 12th Grand Slam title, moving him into a tie for third place with Roy Emerson behind Roger Federer's 17 and Pete Sampras' 14.

Nadal broke three times in the opening set and won the final three games. He broke three more times in the second set, dominating with his combination of defense and superior power.

Protesters tried to delay the final in the second set. One man jumped onto the court near Nadal with a fiery flare spurting white smoke, and security personnel pushed the protester to the ground and quickly dragged him away.

Other protesters also brandishing red flares climbed to the top of nearby Court Suzanne Lenglen and unfurled a banner calling for the resignation of French President Francois Hollande.

Following the protest, both Nadal and Ferrer appeared rattled, and both lost serve. Nadal was broken serving for the set at 5-1, Ferrer when he was serving to stay in the set at 2-5.

Both finalists grinded away from the baseline, with one rally lasting so long fans began to buzz, then started to shush each other.

The 5-foot-9 Ferrer, who was playing in his first Grand Slam final at age 31, often wins points by extending them with his dogged defense. But Nadal matched his retrieving skills, and the torque on his groundstrokes eventually had Ferrer reeling.

Trophy presenter Usain Bolt watched from the front row wearing sunglasses, even though the day was gray with occasional drizzle.

Nadal misfired more than usual in the early going, perhaps adjusting to slow conditions and feeling the effects of his 4½-hour win over Djokovic. He gave back an early service break and had to erase two other break points in the opening set.

It was the first set Ferrer had lost in the tournament, and at that point, he knew he faced a daunting task. Nadal is 146-3 when he wins the first set in Grand Slam tournaments.

Nadal broke again early in the second set, and then came Ferrer's best chance to reverse the course of the match. At 3-1 he had four break points, but Nadal erased them all, the last with a backhand winner to end a 31-shot rally, longest of the match.

In the final set, Ferrer double-faulted for the fifth time to lose serve and fall behind 5-3, and Nadal needed only five more points to close out the victory.

Nadal broke the record for most men's victories at Roland Garros he had shared with Federer and Guillermo Vilas. He improved to 20-4 against Ferrer and has won 17 consecutive meetings on clay.

When the rankings come out on Monday, Ferrer actually will move ahead of Nadal, No. 4 to No. 5.

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