PARIS – All the years of work, all the many wins, led to this moment, with Rafael Nadal preparing to serve against Novak Djokovic, one point from a 13th French Open championship, one point from a 20th Grand Slam trophy to tie Roger Federer's record for men.
And then, finally ready to proceed, Nadal delivered an ace at 106 mph to cap a flawless performance and a surprisingly lopsided 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over the No. 1-ranked Djokovic. Nadal dropped to his knees, smiling broadly, and pumped his arms.
"He keeps going. No holding him back, it seems like. It's amazing. I mean, I admire all his achievements, especially the one here," said Djokovic, who had won his past five Grand Slam finals.
It's the fourth time the No. 2-ranked Nadal won his favorite tournament without ceding a set and made his career mark at the French Open 100-2.
No, that is not a typo.
The 34-year-old lefthander from Spain has won his favorite event four straight times, following previous streaks of four from 2005-08, then five from 2010-14. Those go alongside four triumphs at the U.S. Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.
Nadal made clear that while he never has been consumed with the idea of catching Federer, he can appreciate the accomplishment's significance.
"I would love to finish my career being the player with more Grand Slams. No doubt about that, no?" Nadal said. "But on the other hand, I say, 'OK, I have to do [it] my way. … I'm not going to be thinking all the time, 'Novak [has] this one, Roger is winning the other one.' You can't be always unhappy because your neighbors have a bigger house than you or a bigger boat or have a better phone," Nadal said.
Federer, who sat out the U.S. Open and French Open after two knee operations, posted a congratulatory message on Instagram.
This was the 56th installment of Nadal vs. Djokovic, the most between men in the professional era. Djokovic is ahead 29-27 now, including his 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win at the 2019 Australian Open final.
"In Australia, he killed me. … Today was for me," Nadal said.
The key statistic Sunday: Nadal limited himself to 14 unforced errors.
"He played a perfect match," Djokovic said, "especially in the first two sets."