Not a walkover like in his past matches, reigning champion Rafael Nadal started finely but suffered the raff of a stubborn Novak Djokovic in the final of the 2012 French Open on Sunday, before rain stopped play.
It seemed the Paris crowd was in store for another whitewash as world number two Nadal stormed to a two set lead over his Serbian opponent Djokovic. Just like in the prior rounds, Nadal was the far superior man but his rival, world number one Djokovic, showed why he still claims the summit of the ATP Tour. The thrilling encounter ended 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2 and will continue at 15:00 on Monday.
The first set started with Nadal converting one of his four breakpoints to take the lead. Both men served out each of their games but, with Nadal taking the important earlier break, closed out the set. Djokovic’s game plan was evident as he targeted Nadal’s backhand with some strong ground strokes. However, the Spaniard showed why he has won this tournament a record six times by countering his opponent with some overwhelming shots of his own.
Nadal continued his soaring form by pressuring Djokovic into conceding two breakpoints. He saved the first with an acute forehand aimed deep, yet he couldn’t save the other with a disappointing double fault. The fourth game of the set arrived with Djokovic breaking Nadal, using a clever topspin lob to stay level with the former world number one. The Serbian’s downfall though was succumbing too many breakpoints. This factor evidently showed as Nadal broke Djokovic’s service game again and then eventually sealing the second set with a pacey crosscourt winner.
After leading in the third set 2-0, Djokovic turned his more dominant game into reality with some hard-hitting, flat, deep shots that Nadal seemed to struggle with. The man who made 30 unforced errors in the first two sets tweaked his games to only concede eight in the current set. He demolished Nadal by winning six games consecutively, leaving him perplexed, and wrapping up the third.
The awe-inspiring comeback of a resilient Djokovic continued by winning an impressive eight games in a row. Nadal held nerve to trail 1-2 before umpire Stefan Fransson declared that play should be ceased for a second time.
The players were told that play had been suspended and that the final will resume the following day. This ‘lucky break’ may give Nadal the rest he needs to recapture his past form and finally conquer a vigilant Djokovic; a ferocious rivalry that only really flared up last year.
(Writing by Matthew Bolton)