Roland Garros Day 15: Nadal beats Djokovic for 20th major title

  • Matt Trollope

Rafael Nadal delivered a flawless performance against Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final to win a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam singles title. 

Nadal overwhelmed the world No.1 6-0 6-2 7-5 in a match played beneath the Court Philippe Chatrier roof to earn his 13th Roland Garros title.

He remains undefeated in finals at the clay-court major, having never been extended beyond four sets in title matches. 

The win was also his 100th career match victory at Roland Garros.

"Winning here means everything to me," Nadal said. 

"Honestly, for me, I don't think today about the 20th (title), of equalling Roger on this great number. For me today is just a Roland Garros victory.

"Roland Garros means everything to me, I spend here most of the most important moments of my tennis career, no doubt about that.

"Just to play here is a true inspiration. And the love story that I have with this city and with this court in unbelievable."

Rafael Nadal improves his career record at Roland Garros to 100-2, including 7-1 against Djokovic at the tournament, and 3-0 over the Serb in Roland Garros finals. (Getty Images)

This was perhaps the finest performance in a major final of Nadal’s career, reminiscent of his level in the 2008 French final, during which he delivered a crushing 6-1 6-3 6-0 defeat to Roger Federer – the man whose career Grand Slam victory tally Nadal equalled on Sunday.

Coming into the match, many signs pointed to a Djokovic victory. He had won 14 of their previous 18 meetings, including the past three at Grand Slam events, and the last time at Roland Garros.

In their most recent Grand Slam final, at Australian Open 2019, Djokovic allowed Nadal just eight games in a performance nearing perfection. 

"Winning here means everything to me. The love story that I have with this city and with this court in unbelievable."
Rafael Nadal

However, Nadal avenged that defeat in even more devastating fashion on Sunday.

"Sorry for today," Nadal said to Djokovic in an on-court interview. "In Australia he killed me. Clearly today was for me, that's part of the game. We've played plenty of times together."

And despite all the discussion of the conditions – cold weather, a damp and less responsive court, heavy balls and indoor play – not favouring Nadal, the Spaniard won the title anyway, without losing a single set all fortnight. 

Rafa ruthless

Just twice previously had Djokovic ever lost a 6-0 set at a Grand Slam tournament. 

But in the first set against Nadal, despite leading 40-15 in the first game, earning three break points in the fourth game, and leading 40-0 in the fifth, he couldn’t avoid a bagel this time around.

Nadal completed that incredible first set with 10 winners to just two unforced errors, and continued that stellar level into the second set.

Djokovic saved three break points in the opening game to finally get on the board, but Nadal broke serve in the third and fifth games to surge ahead 4-1; his stats at this point included 17 winners, just three unforced errors, and not a single error from his backhand wing. 

The Spaniard reached 40-0 in the next game with a scorching forehand passing shot that clocked 159km/h, and belted another forehand winner for 5-1.

A frustrated Novak Djokovic finished the final with 52 unforced errors to Nadal's 14, and suffered his first loss in a completed match in season 2020. (Getty Images)

Two games later, he was ahead two sets to love, and in the third set he broke Djokovic at love to lead 3-2.

The match looked as good as over. 

But Djokovic broke straight back with his first service break of the match and roared along with the crowd, his first real display of emotion in the final. He then held for 4-3 – the first time all day he had won two consecutive games – to inject some life into the contest.

Yet this tension was temporary. Nadal, undeterred, benefited from a Djokovic forehand error and double fault to break for a 6-5 lead.

Serving for the title, he held at love, capping victory with an ace out wide and sinking to his knees in celebration.

"It was a very tough match for me today, obviously I'm not so pleased with the way I played," Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony. 

"But I was definitely overplayed by a better player today on the court."

Babos, Mladenovic defend title

No.2 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic were too strong in the women’s doubles final on Sunday, beating Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk 6-4 7-5.

It marked the fourth Grand Slam title for the Hungarian-French duo, and second straight in Paris.

Mladenovic has now won three Roland Garros women’s doubles titles, having teamed with fellow Frenchwomen Caroline Garcia to win the 2016 trophy.

Guarachi and Krawczyk, the No.14 seeds, were appearing in their first Grand Slam final.