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June 08. 2014 8:13PM

Clay master: Nadal wins ninth French Open title

Rafael Nadal of Spain attends the trophy ceremony after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men's singles final match to win the French Open Tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

PARIS — Rafael Nadal became the first man in history to win the French Open nine times as he swept to a record fifth straight title with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 defeat of Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

The success marked a 14th Grand Slam title for the Spanish king of clay, three shy of the record of 17 by Roger Federer. Nadal has won his last 35 matches at the event he has dominated for a decade.

Nadal stands an impressive 66-1 at the tournament and 90-1 over his career in best-of-five-set matches on his beloved clay. His only loss came in the 2009 fourth round to Robin Soderling.

Nadal finished with a break of Djokovic in draining, physical conditions, with the Serb second seed double-faulting on match point.

Nadal was presented with the trophy by six-time Paris winner Bjorn Borg.

“It’s amazing and emotional for me today,” said Nadal, who ended with 44 winners and broke his opponent six times.

“For me, the most important thing is win Roland Garros. The most important thing today is I won the most important tournament of the world in clay, probably the most important tournament of the year for me. It was an emotional victory after what happened in Australia (where he lost the final to Stan Wawrinka).

“I don’t really care that much about the records, I’ll still play with a lot of intensity. I’ll still be motivated.

“Time will tell if I can have another record or not. For the time being, I’m so happy to have reached 14 Grand Slams (titles).

“So I’m so very happy. But I didn’t really look at things this way when I arrived here at Roland Garros”(with remnants of his back injury).”

Djokovic could not hide his disappointment after beating Nadal in their last four meetings dating back to last autumn. He got an extended standing ovation at the trophy ceremony after standing 19-23 in the series with his biggest rival.

“I wasn’t playing at the level that I wanted, especially in the second part of the match. But that’s sport, it’s how it is. These kind of big matches obviously take the best out of players,” said Djokovic.

“I tried to do my best. My best wasn’t like the best against him in Rome a couple weeks ago. It’s disappointing for me, but life goes on. It’s not the first time or last time that I lost a match.

“I missed the trophy this year but I’ll return next year and keep trying to win it.”

Paris is the only Grand Slam that Djokovic has not won.

Nadal has won the Roland Garros trophy at nine of the last 10 editions and now owns 45 career clay court singles titles, second to the all-time mark of 46 by Guillermo Vilas. Paris was his third title on clay this season after Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

Nadal dropped the first set in 44 minutes but roared back into contention in the second set as he and Djokovic traded breaks. The top seed broke the Serbian in the sixth game but gave it straight back on a forehand error,

He then broke for 7-5 to claim the second set before leading off the third with a break for 2-0 after a 22-stroke rally set up a break point.

Nadal took a two-sets-to-one lead on a break of the fading Serb in the final gale.

In the fourth, Nadal grabbed a 4-2 margin and took victory with his break in the final game of the afternoon.

“It’s normal that you have ups and downs,” said Djokovic. “I was just hoping that in the fourth I would be able to come back.

“I started feeling a little bit better, but I wasn’t managing to bring my A game when it was most needed in the end of the fourth.”

The win keeps Nadal in the ATP number one position with Djokovic remaining second. It improved Nadal’s Roland Garros record over Djokovic to 6-0.

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