Spain Star Rafael Nadal winning a 13th record French Open title he dismantled the great rival Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday, thrashing the world number one 6-0 6-2 7-5 to lift a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam men’s singles title.
A lack of preparation, a change to a heavier brand of tennis balls and the cool, damp autumn conditions of the rescheduled tournament may not sound significant but they were supposed to make the Spaniard vulnerable at a tournament he had only lost twice in 16 years.
Many had him as second favourite at Roland Garros. They suggested he would struggle without the dry, hot conditions that suit his spin-heavy game.
Djokovic, whose only previous defeat in 2020 came when he was disqualified at the US Open, called Nadal’s performance “perfect”, adding he was “outplayed by the better player”.
Nadal opted against competing at last month’s US Open. His warm-up for Paris included just one tournament, the Italian Open, where he suffered a surprise defeat by Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.
It was the first time he had arrived at the French Open having failed to win a clay-court tournament in the build-up.
The victory meant Nadal equalled Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles, although the Spaniard played down the feat’s significance.
He looked close to tears as, while wearing a face mask during a low-key presentation ceremony, he raised the tournament trophy in front of the 1,000 spectators allowed inside Court Philippe Chatrier in yet another reminder of why this year’s event was so different.
Nadal said winning again at Roland Garros “means everything” but he was unable to celebrate as usual because of the difficulties the world faces fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
The disruption the virus has caused to the tennis calendar meant Nadal was non-committal when asked whether he would compete at the season-ending ATP Finals in London next month – a tournament he has never won – or January’s Australian Open.
The manner of his victory ensured he will be the favourite to secured a 14th title when the French Open begins again in less than eight months’ time.