Nadal, the ultimate king of clay, wins his 8th French Open

France Tennis French OpenRafael Nadal became the first man to win the same major eight times, his record at the spiritual home of claycourt tennis stood at a jaw-dropping 59-1.

“I never dreamed about this kind of thing (winning eight titles),” third seed Nadal, who returned to the tour in February after seven months out with a knee injury, said before being handed the Musketeers’ Cup by Olympics 100 metres champion Usain Bolt. Ferrer had to settle for receiving the loudest round of applause from the 15,000 fans and a runners-up cheque for 750,000 euros.

“These two weeks I played very good tennis but I would like to say that he deserves everything, he’s the best,” Ferrer told the crowd. The ugly incidents in the second set momentarily overshadowed Nadal’s relentless charge towards the title on a unseasonably cold day in Paris with the temperature stuck at 16 degrees Celsius.

The grey, dank and chilly atmosphere that greeted the players on Philippe Chatrier Court was certainly not to Nadal’s liking but he soon warmed to the task of grinding down an opponent whom he had trounced in their last 16 claycourt clashes. A wild forehand from Ferrer handed Nadal the first break of the match for a 2-1 lead but the fourth seed hit back immediately by employing some astute baseline tactics.

Ferrer was a formidable opponent in the sense that games lasted longer than one might expect, but it was just too much power from Nadal on this surface for a man that was making his first appearance in a Grand Slam final. Nadal hit 35 winners to his 25 unforced errors, a stat almost mirrored by Ferrer who had 22 winners to his 35 unforced.

Nadal is now third all time in Grand Slam wins, tying Roy Emerson and sitting just two behind Pete Sampras and five behind the great Roger Federer. His play at this event has been incredible over the years, but his return to the tennis scene this season has been a surprise even to experts who have watched him play over the years.

Injuries kept him out of the 2012 U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, and some where worried he’d never come back full strength. He did, and his eighth French title is a pretty good reward for a return for one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game.

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