12/7/12 4:13 PM | Ricky Dimon
Tennistalk's countdown of 2012's Top 10 matches continues with its second best match of the year, Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic in the French Open final. Nadal beat his nemesis to win his seventh Roland Garros title.
2. Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 - French Open final
In no other 2012 match were the stakes higher than the French Open final between Djokovic and Nadal. Djokovic was bidding to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, having previously triumphed at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2011 and earlier this season at the Australian Open. Nadal was aiming to surpass Bjorn Borg with what what would be the Spaniard's seventh Roland Garros title. Of course, Nadal really needed to win this for a different reason: he had had finished runner-up to Djokovic in all three prior majors. A clean sweep of four straight would be tough to recover from, even for one of the game's all-time best in mental strength like Nadal.
The six-time champion and two-time defending champion was not about to let that happen. The match lasted three hours and 50 minutes across two rain-delayed days, while featuring a total of 241 total points played. Of those 241 points, a mere 29 ended with a Nadal unforced error. Despite such quality, such ruthless precision, the King of Clay still found himself nearly pushed to a fifth set.
If a previous stoppage had benefited Djokovic, it was Nadal who was let off the hook when officials suspended play with Djokovic leading by a break in the fourth set at 2-1. The top-ranked Serb had also won the third, but when they came back out on Monday it was Nadal's turn to seize the momentum. After he broke right away for a 2-2 with a clean backhand pass, both men played brilliant service games en route to a 6-5 Nadal advantage. Djokovic led 30-15 while serving to stay in the championship, but he lost three straight points--including the last with a double-fault.
"I felt great on the court," Djokovic assured. "We almost played four hours. I thought we played a fantastic match where people hopefully enjoyed yesterday and today. It's beautiful, you know. These matches make you feel like all the work that you put into it is worth it."
"I have great rivals, but even if it's good era of tennis, playing against fantastic players, I'm more than happy to enjoy matches like I had," Nadal said when asked if he felt unlucky to be in an era with Djokovic and Roger Federer. "I enjoyed a lot the final. I suffered, but I enjoyed.... In Australia I was not in a very good shape, mentally speaking. I could have won, but for mental reasons, I was probably not in the best mental status. Now I made it. I did everything I could to win this match. For me, it's great emotion."
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