• French Open, Day 16

Rivalry swings back in Nadal's favour after Paris triumph

Jo Carter June 11, 2012

Nadal defies Djokovic to clinch seventh French crown

Gallery: Nadal v Djokovic
Emotional Nadal savours victory
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For the fourth consecutive grand slam final, the world's best two players went head-to-head. But this time, there was even more at stake. Both men were one match away from sealing their place in the history books. Something had to give.

After three hours and 49 minutes on court - featuring three rain delays and spanning two days, it was Nadal who triumphed 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 to claim a record seventh French Open crown, surpassing Bjorn Borg's six.

For Djokovic, the dream of a Grand Slam - being in possession of all four major titles - was over. While defeat for Nadal would see him have another chance to break Borg's record next year, Djokovic may never have another chance to achieve something not done in over 40 years. After all, 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has never achieved the feat, and probably never will.

But there was no sentimentality on Nadal's part as he returned to Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday - after play was suspended on Sunday - to wrap up victory - sealing his place in the record books and ending Djokovic's bid to complete the set.

While Nadal's record at Roland Garros may ultimately be surpassed, the Nole Slam would never be bettered - he would join an elite list of names to have the real Grand Slam - all four titles in a 12-month period.

He had beaten Nadal on clay twice last year, but in the end his error count was just too high. Against a player like Andreas Seppi, or even Jo-Wilfried Tsonga he had enough to scrape through, but against Nadal it was costly. He hit more winners than the Spaniard, but 53 unforced errors proved fatal.

Both players made four double faults apiece, but Djokovic's were damaging. A double fault on break point gave Nadal the advantage in the opening set, and a second gave the Spaniard an early break in the second. Then, a double fault on championship point gifted Nadal the title, costing the Serb his dream.

The Djokovic of 2011 would never have succumbed to defeat on a double fault. The virtually invincible Djokovic of last season had managed to get inside Nadal's head. But with three back-to-back wins against the Serb (following seven straight defeats), the momentum is back in Nadal's favour.

Djokovic boasts the upper hand on the hard courts, Nadal on the clay. Now all eyes turn to the grass, which offers a neutral playing field for the rivals, a captivating saga that could yet take another twist in London.

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Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk