At some point, Rafael Nadal's French Open dominance will come to an end. It just may not be anytime soon.
On Sunday, Nadal won his 13th career French Open title, beating Novak Djokovic in straight sets (6-0, 6-2, 7-5) at Roland Garros. It was Nadal's 20th career Grand Slam title, moving him into a tie with Roger Federer for the most in men's singles history.
However, things weren't quite the same at Roland Garros this year as they have been in the past. Instead of being held in late May/early June, the French Open was postponed to late September/early October because of the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament also used new balls that took some time for the players to get used to.
So, with those balls and the cooler weather, the French Open had a different feel. Yet, it was Djokovic and Nadal, the two top seeds in the tournament, who reached the men's singles final. And that shouldn't have been a surprise as those two and Federer have dominated the majority of Grand Slam tournaments in recent memory.
Entering Sunday, Djokovic led the all-time series against Nadal 29-26. But on clay, Nadal held a 17-7 advantage. And although Djokovic is one of only two men to win a match against Nadal at the French Open, it was going to be a tough task to do it again.
Nadal may be the best in French Open history, but few likely expected him to come out and beat Djokovic 6-0 in the first set in dominant fashion. Djokovic served in the first two games, yet Nadal broke both times and went up 2-0. And with a 91-0 record in matches at Roland Garros in which he had won the first set, things were looking good for Nadal early.
That continued in the second set. And although Djokovic won the first game, Nadal began showcasing just what makes him so difficult to beat on clay:
Even though Djokovic won the first game of the second set, he went on to lose it 6-2, again failing to break any of Nadal's serves. But Djokovic would come back and play much better in the third set, showing that he wasn't going to let Nadal win the title without putting up a fight.
Djokovic and Nadal were tied 3-3 in the third set, and Djokovic kept up the intensity as he tried to stage a comeback:
However, Nadal went on to win that third and final set 7-5, securing the victory with his fourth ace of the match:
With the win, Nadal improved to 100-2 in French Open matches. He's won the tournament in four straight years, marking the third time in his career he's had a run of success that long at Roland Garros. The 34-year-old Spaniard won four straight from 2005-08, then he won five straight from 2010-14.
This year, despite all the differences from previous French Open tournaments, Nadal never lost a set during his run to the title. He also may have saved his best for last in his dominant showing against Djokovic.
"I played at my highest level when I needed to play at my highest level," Nadal said, according to Howard Fendrich and John Leicester of the Associated Press.
And as long as Nadal continues to play at that high level, he's going to keep being a top contender at the French Open in future years.