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Nadal completes six-pack to equal Borg’s haul

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Originally published on: 02/09/11 13:10

The celebration was different but the outcome the same. Rafael Nadal fell to his knees and nestled his head in his hands after winning his sixth Roland Garros crown and equalling the great Bjorn Borg.

Perhaps it was relief, for the king of clay appeared far from his best in Paris, seemingly playing with his losses to Novak Djokovic on the dirt of both Rome and Madrid still on the mind. Invincibility on the red stuff seemingly dented, the Spaniard struggled through five sets with John Isner in the first round and not until the quarter-finals, when he defeated his 2009 conqueror Robin Soderling, did the pieces begin to fall back into place.

Nadal stepped up a gear to reach the final, where an unexpected clash  with Roger Federer was all that prevented him from matching the achievements of one of the greatest dirt-ballers in history. The Swiss had superbly ended Djokovic’s unbeaten record in the semi-finals, but Nadal was the heavy favourite after beating Federer on four occasions in the Paris showpiece.

The Mallorcan began his assault for slam No.10 terribly and quickly found himself 5-2 behind. In another example of the game’s fine margins, though, Federer missed a deft drop shot and with it the chance to break for the set before the Spaniard completed a shift in momentum and promptly won the next five games.

A rain delay aided Federer’s cause in the second set, and though he lost it, he overturned a 4-2 deficit in the third to take it to a fourth just as the lights looked set to go out on his pursuit of a second French Open title. But as Federer knows better than anyone, the longer Nadal stays on the clay, the more chance he has of winning and three quick breaks saw him round out a high quality triumph in a memorable final.

“Rafa played well and deserved the win today, he’s a great champion on clay especially,” said the Swiss, while Nadal was similarly humble. “It’s something very special to equal the six titles of Bjorn, for sure. But for me, the most important thing is to win Roland Garros. Six times are a lot.

“It’s a real honour, the comparison with Bjorn.”

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