Rafael Nadal has been awarded Spain's highest sporting honour after his 13th French Open triumph and 20th grand slam title.

The 34-year-old scooped another Roland Garros crown with a straight-sets demolition of world number one Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

It moved Nadal level with Roger Federer at the top of the list of the most prolific men's singles champions in the grand slams.

Now the Spanish government has declared Nadal will receive the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit.

The honour is reserved for the country's highest achievers in sport, with golf great Seve Ballesteros among the previous recipients, along with Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano and 2010 World Cup winners Xavi, Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta.

Nadal is not the first tennis player to land the Grand Cross, however, with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez rewarded in 2001 for their careers and Manuel Santana honoured a year earlier.

The announcement from the government described Nadal as "one of the best athletes in history and an example to follow" on and off the courts.

The Higher Sports Council stated on Twitter: "If anyone deserves the Royal Cross of the Order of Sporting Merit, it's you @RafaelNadal. You have made history and a great pride for all the country."

Rafael Nadal has been labelled as "the pride of our country" by Spain boss Luis Enrique following his latest French Open triumph.

Nadal made it 13 Roland Garros titles with a straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic on Sunday, taking him level with Roger Federer on 20 grand slams.

It was his 100th match win at the event in Paris at a major he has dominated, losing only twice.

Nadal's supremacy in his 6-0 6-2 7-5 win against the world number one on Philippe Chatrier was underlined by the fact he made just 14 unforced errors to his opponent's 52.

And Luis Enrique, whose side face Ukraine in the Nations League on Tuesday, heaped praise on his 34-year-old compatriot.

"I want to congratulate him on behalf of the [Spanish Football] Federation," he said.

"I remember his way of facing failures and his respect for his opponents. 

"He is the pride of our country. He offers us a lesson in life."

Nadal has now moved to 999 career wins across all tournaments, with 201 defeats, and has captured 86 titles.

In the titles reckoning he sits fourth in the Open Era (behind Jimmy Connors' 109, Roger Federer's 103 and Ivan Lendl's 94). A startling 60 of those titles from Nadal have come on clay.

Rafael Nadal took his chance to equal Roger Federer's haul of 20 grand slams by winning the French Open on Sunday.

The Spaniard demolished Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5 in the final at Roland Garros for his 13th French Open title and 20th major success, tying the record held by Federer for most won by a man.

Nadal has dominated in Paris and he did so once more despite some questions heading into the tournament.

The 34-year-old capitalised on a dream run – one of the easiest of his career at grand slams.

Nadal brushed aside Egor Gerasimov, Mackenzie McDonald, Stefano Travaglia, Sebastian Korda, Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman before meeting Djokovic.

But you can only beat what is in front of you. We take a look at how the opponents compare to his previous major wins.

Dream run opens up

While Nadal is almost unstoppable at Roland Garros, he was playing just his second tournament back from the coronavirus-enforced break.

There were perhaps meant to be a few trickier early encounters, but Fabio Fognini, Kei Nishikori and John Isner, who almost stunned Nadal at the French Open in 2011, fell early.

It seemed Nadal's biggest test to reach the final would be Dominic Thiem in the semis, but the in-form Schwartzman stunned the Austrian in the last eight.

The average ranking of Nadal's opponents at this year's tournament was 99.4. Only at Roland Garros in 2010 (116.6) has that figure been higher on his way to grand slam success.

But 10 years ago, he faced wildcard Gianni Mina – then ranked 655th in the world – in the first round, skewing that number. The median ranking of opponents he met this year was 75, which is the highest number of any of his major successes, eclipsing the 2017 US Open (59).

It meant Nadal faced just two top-50 players in Paris in Djokovic and Schwartzman, the same as at Flushing Meadows three years ago. The Spaniard's highest-ranked opponent on his way to that US Open title was world number 28 Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals before he crushed Kevin Anderson in the decider.

Nadal can only beat what he is presented, but none of Federer and Djokovic's grand slams have been won after defeating only two top-50 players.

Capitalising on the opportunity

Somehow, despite a French Open win-loss record that he improved to 100-2 in 2020, there were still questions over Nadal heading into a tournament he has owned. Had he had enough match practice? How would the colder weather impact him?

With the draw softened, Nadal claimed the trophy without dropping a set for the fourth time in his career, following on from 2008, 2010 and 2017. They are the four occasions he has won a major without losing a set.

In fact, he lost just 53 games. Only twice has he lost fewer – at the 2017 French Open (35) and 2008 French Open (41) – on his way to a grand slam title.

It may have been an easier passage, but Nadal again showed why he is the 'King of Clay'.

Rafael Nadal is unsure whether he will play again this year as he basks in the "beautiful" feeling of sharing the record for men's grand slam singles titles with Roger Federer.

Nadal produced another masterclass at Roland Garros on Sunday, beating old foe Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5 to win his favourite tournament for an astonishing 13th time.

The Spanish great also moved level with Federer's tally of 20 major triumphs, outclassing world number one Djokovic in Paris.

Nadal skipped the US Open, as he was not comfortable travelling to New York amid the coronavirus pandemic, before making his return to the ATP Tour in Rome in September following an absence of seven months.

The 34-year-old will soon turn his attention to deciding when he will next be in action, following another sublime performance on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Novak Djokovic insists he had no fitness complaints during the French Open final and simply lost to a "perfect" performance from Rafael Nadal.

World number one Djokovic lost a completed match for the first time this year as he remarkably went down 6-0 6-2 7-5.

Nadal dominated Sunday's match to claim his 13th Roland Garros title and 20th grand slam championship in total, equalling Roger Federer's record.

Djokovic had been battling neck and shoulder issues in the quarter-finals earlier in the week, wearing tape, repeatedly stretching out his left arm and also receiving treatment as he beat Pablo Carreno Busta.

The Serbian had no desire to look for excuses against Nadal, though, and instead paid tribute to his opponent.

"No, no, I was fine. Everything was okay," Djokovic told a news conference. "I was ready for this match.

"It's just that I was outplayed. I was beaten by a guy who was just perfect today - especially the first two sets. That's all there is to it.

"I will absolutely not find any other justification for this loss. He was just better.

"Straight-sets victory, yeah. It's a grand slam final, but playing Rafa on clay, you play Rafa, who is playing the way he's playing, it's tough to get a set off him.

"I thought third set was a chance, but I just didn't use it."

Despite Nadal's incredible record at the French Open, where he has not lost in more than five years, Djokovic admits he was surprised by his standard.

"I felt well throughout the entire tournament. I thought I was in a great form," he said. "Certainly I could have played better, especially in the first two sets.

"But he did surprise me with the way he was playing, the quality of tennis he was producing, the level. He's phenomenal."

Roger Federer hopes both he and Rafael Nadal can kick on from 20 grand slam titles after the Spaniard joined his rival on the landmark number.

Federer has long led the way for men's singles championships, yet a two-year drought allowed Nadal to close the gap.

The world number two then won the French Open final on Sunday against Novak Djokovic - a dominant 6-0 6-2 7-5 success - to match Federer's record tally.

It was a 13th triumph at Roland Garros, too, and Federer said he was only too happy to welcome Nadal to the top of the standings.

"I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion," Federer wrote in a message posted to his Twitter page.

"As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th grand slam victory.

"It is especially amazing that he has now won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport.

"I also congratulate his team, because nobody can do this alone.

"I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it."

Federer will end 2020 without winning an ATP Tour event as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Rafael Nadal brushed away talk of his record-equalling haul of grand slam triumphs as he focused on his Roland Garros "love story" after another French Open win.

Nadal thrashed world number one Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5 to match Roger Federer's total of 20 men's singles titles at the tennis majors.

It was the Spaniard's 13th success on the red clay of Paris, raising his own benchmark further, and his long relationship with the crowd in France was at the forefront of the champion's mind.

"To win here means everything to me," Nadal said. "It's not the moment - honestly not for me - to think about the 20th, equalling Roger or this great number.

"For me, today is just a Roland Garros victory. Roland Garros means everything to me.

"I spent the most important moments of my tennis career here. I just want to say thank you very, very much to everybody here.

"For me, just to play here is a true inspiration. The love story I have with this city and this court is unforgettable."

So dominant was Nadal's latest win on Court Philippe-Chatrier that he apologised to rival Djokovic, who had not lost a completed match up to this point in 2020.

"Congrats to Novak for another great tournament," Nadal said. "Sorry for today. In Australia, he killed me a couple of times ago. Today was for me.

"That's part of the game. We've played plenty of times together - one day one wins, another day the other. So all the best for the future, Novak."

Djokovic acknowledged he had been completely outclassed.

"I want to say a huge congratulations to Rafa and your team and your family, of course," the top seed said in his post-final speech.

"What you are doing on this court is unbelievable - but not just this court. Throughout your entire career, you've been a great champion.

"Today you showed why you're king of the clay. I experienced it with my own skin.

"It was a very tough match for me today - obviously I am not so pleased with the way I played - but I was definitely outplayed by a better player today on the court."

Rafael Nadal matched Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam singles titles and secured a 100th match victory at the French Open as he thrashed Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final.

A 6-0 6-2 7-5 defeat of the world number one gave Nadal a 13th major on the Paris clay, extending his own record for the most titles won by a player at a single grand slam.

It also meant that for the fourth time he went through the entire draw without dropping a set.

The career of the great Spaniard invites close examination to fully appreciate the prowess that has seen him run up such astonishing numbers.

Here is how he has staked a strong claim to be regarded among the greatest tennis players of all time - and unquestionably the king of clay.

DREAM DEBUT TO SERIAL THRILLER

Nadal turned 19 two days before winning his first French Open title, which came in 2005, on his debut appearance in the tournament.

His record on the Roland Garros clay shows Nadal has now won an astonishing 100 matches and lost only twice, with Robin Soderling and Djokovic the only men to defeat him. Djokovic sits second on the list in Paris, with 74 wins.

Of those 100 wins for Nadal, an incredible 81 have come without him dropping a set, 17 have come in four sets, and on two occasions he has won in five.

He has had 27 victories against players ranked inside the top 10 during his century of French successes and has never lost when he has reached the semi-final stage.

Sunday's win was a seventh for Nadal in eight Roland Garros clashes with Djokovic, and a third success in a French Open final against the Serbian after their 2012 and 2014 title matches.

In the men's game, Federer had been the only man to rack up 100 or more match wins in a single grand slam prior to Nadal joining him.

The Swiss veteran has won 102 matches at the Australian Open and 101 at Wimbledon.

ANOTHER LANDMARK LOOMING

Nadal has now moved to 999 career wins across all tournaments, with 201 defeats, and has captured 86 titles.

In the titles reckoning he sits fourth in the Open Era (behind Jimmy Connors' 109, Federer's 103 and Ivan Lendl's 94). A startling 60 of those titles from Nadal have come on clay.

Mallorca's favourite son has been a fixture in the top 10 on the ATP Tour since first breaking through to that level in April 2005 and has spent 209 weeks at world number one, a position he last occupied before last year's Australian Open.

He has won one Australian Open title, 13 now in Paris, two at Wimbledon and four at the US Open.

NADAL THE G.O.A.T.?

It still feels too early to make a call on which of the Big Three will be remembered as the greatest of all time, or more specifically of their era.

They each own a host of astounding records, but if all three were to finish their careers with 20 grand slams, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then one tie-breaker might be their head-to-heads in the grand slams.

Nadal can point to a 10-4 winning record against Federer in the four majors, and now a 10-6 lead over Djokovic.

Before Sunday, he had lost his last three grand slam clashes with the man from Belgrade, but Nadal will now take some reining in.

Rafael Nadal equalled Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam men's singles titles with his latest stunning French Open victory over Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Nadal's remarkable record of Roland Garros success continued courtesy of an astonishing 6-0 6-2 7-5 win against the world number one on Philippe Chatrier.

Thirteen of the Spaniard's major triumphs have come on the red clay in Paris, where he has lost only twice - never in a final and not at all since the last eight in 2015 against Djokovic.

A 999th top-level victory and 100th at this event never looked to be in doubt as Nadal seized control from the outset to win the French Open without dropping a set across the tournament for the fourth time.

This was just Djokovic's second defeat of the season but came in a far more clinical manner than the first, when he was defaulted from the US Open for striking a line judge with the ball.

Djokovic - a 17-time grand slam champion - had swiftly sought to put Nadal to work with a series of drop shots, but the defending champion responded in typically masterful fashion and raced into a two-break lead in the opener.

Although the sort of brave defence so often associated with Djokovic was again on display, prompting some staggering rallies, he could not make significant progress against the Nadal serve and subsequently collapsed from 40-0 up on his own.

The Serbian deserved better than a first-set bagel - the first in a men's major final since 2006 - yet soon trailed again in the second, sending a tired forehand into the net at the end of another draining game.

Djokovic puffed out his cheeks as Nadal refused to relent, breaking once more and coasting through the remainder of another straightforward set to bring the Musketeers' Cup firmly into view.

The top seed dug in at the start of the third and even quickly recovered to level the set after a meek break to love granted Nadal complete command.

Djokovic's renewed resilience briefly kept his opponent at bay, but a contentious double-fault proved the decisive blow and Nadal served out the championship to love with an ace to match Federer, a man five years his senior who has not won an ATP Tour event in 2020 and continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Margaret Court's overall record of 24 singles major championships is surely now in the king of clay's sights.


Data Slam: Stunning start sets the tone

For much of the 48-minute opening set, Djokovic gave as good as he got. But Nadal dominated in key areas - Djokovic's first serve was at 42 per cent, while he won just three of 18 short rallies - to result in a one-sided scoreline. Only twice has this rivalry produced a 6-0 set, the other coming as Nadal also raced into a lead in last year's Internazionali d'Italia final.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 31/14
Djokovic – 38/52

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 4/1
Djokovic – 1/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/18
Djokovic – 1/5

Rafael Nadal dominated Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5 in the French Open final on Sunday to tie Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam titles.

Novak Djokovic is relishing what he believes could be the biggest challenge in sport of facing his "greatest rival" Rafael Nadal in the French Open final on Sunday.

Top seed Djokovic overcame a Stefanos Tsitsipas fightback to win the second semi-final 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1 at Roland Garros on Friday after Nadal beat Diego Schwartzman in straight sets.

The world number one will do battle with 12-time French Open champion Nadal in a mouth-watering clash of the titans on Court Philippe-Chatrier this weekend.

Djokovic has won 29 of the 55 meetings between two of the all-time greats, while the Serb and Robin Soderling are the only players to have beaten the Spaniard in the Paris grand slam.

Nadal has never lost a final at a major he has dominated, and Djokovic is well aware of the size of the challenge he will face when he attempts to deny the 'King of Clay' a record-equalling 20th grand slam triumph.

Djokovic, a winner of 17 majors but only one at Roland Garros in 2016, said in his on-court interview: "It's his [Nadal's] home. And with all the titles he's won. But I remember I beat him in the quarter-finals in 2015.

"I hope to recover. It's the biggest challenge, perhaps in sport, to play Nadal here at Roland Garros but I am motivated to win."

Asked to elaborate on those comments in his news conference, Djokovic replied: "Well, isn't it obvious? He won this tournament so many times that I don't think any player has won that many times any tournament.

"He's lost twice in his entire career on this court. Obviously the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June. I think that could be a better chance for me, obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually.

"Regardless of the conditions, he's still there, he's Rafa, he's in the final and we're playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the finals at Roland Garros, I know that feeling. I did lose to him on this court most of the matches that we played, but I also won one match in 2015 in straight sets in quarters.

"That's the match that I'll look back at and obviously try to take some positives out of it and use it tactically against him. I'm not feeling exhausted physically so much after tonight's match, obviously almost four hours. It was a great battle.

"But I feel fine. I think a day and a half will be plenty of time for me to recover. I'm really looking forward to a great battle with Rafa."

Djokovic added: "I've played him more than I played any other player in my professional career. I think our head-to-head is the biggest head-to-head ever in the history of the sport.

"He's definitely my greatest rival. Playing him in so many great matches, of course the past will have some effect in terms of respect towards each other, I guess motivation to get out on the court and play your best, knowing that we both have to be at our best in order to win against each other.

"So I think that's where the past will play its offensive line. Not more than that, to be honest, because I think we are both experienced enough to really approach matches like this focusing only what is ahead of us."

Rafael Nadal's history with Novak Djokovic makes Sunday's French Open final between the pair a mouth-watering prospect, but the Spaniard insists his focus will be on bringing his 'A' game.

Djokovic is one of only two players to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros and he awaits in a dream Paris showdown after the pair came through their semi-finals - the latter after a five-set slog with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Nadal, who was up first and beat Diego Schwartzman to advance to his 13th French Open final, spoke ahead of Djokovic's win.

Asked if his previous run-ins with the Serbian would play a part in this weekend's tussle, Nadal said: "I don't think so. Different circumstances, different kind of tournament and different situation. I don't know. 

"I will let you know on Sunday. I can't predict the future. The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. 

"Without playing my best tennis, the situation is very difficult. I know that is a court that I have been playing well for such a long time, so that helps. 

"But at the same time, he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. He is one of the toughest opponents possible. 

"I am here to keep trying my best. I like to play in this scenario. I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. 

"But for Sunday it is not enough. I need to make another one. That's what I'm looking for. I'm going to work hard to try to make that happen."

Novak Djokovic will face Rafael Nadal in Sunday's French Open final after battling past Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets.

With the upper-body issues that hampered his quarter-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta apparently behind him, the world number one still had to dig deep in Friday's semi-final to see off Tsitsipas, who had won 27 matches this year and had looked imperious against Andrey Rublev in the previous round.

Tsitsipas rallied from match point down in the third set to force Djokovic to go the distance in his quest to reach a first grand slam final, but the 17-time major winner wrestled momentum back to claim a 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1 victory.

The 33-year-old, who is 216-1 in grand slam matches after winning the first two sets, eventually completed the job after three hours and 54 minutes as he set up a meeting with old foe Nadal in what will be his 27th major final.

Djokovic saved four break points in the opening game before moving 4-1 ahead and again held off a stern challenge on serve to make it 5-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The 2016 champion's drop shot appeared on point, with two more in game nine helping him close out the opening set despite one or two loose groundstrokes.

Tsitsipas was arguably playing the better tennis by the early stages of the second set, but it was Djokovic who was producing the goods at the key points. Some remarkable defensive work and a brilliant cross-court backhand winner saw him set up just his second break point after trailing 0-40, and he took it when Tsitsipas skied a forehand after a net cord.

He consolidated to move 4-2 ahead and got the double break when Tsitsipas swung a forehand into the tramlines, serving out the set with back-to-back aces to assume control of the match.

Djokovic had match point on serve at 5-4 in the third but Tsitsipas suddenly struck back, at last getting a break of his own and then snatching the set with a ferocious forehand that clipped the baseline.

By now, it was Tsitsipas who was under siege on serve and Djokovic who could not make the breakthrough. He saw 10 break points come and go before sending a drop shot into the net at set point down as the contest entered an unlikely decider.

Djokovic at last broke the resistance early in the fifth, a dead-eyed drop shot and then a strangely errant service game from Tsitsipas giving the Serbian a double break. A third match point proved enough for the number one seed, a downcast Tsitsipas watching a second serve slapped beyond his reach.

Rafael Nadal advanced to his 13th French Open final as he maintained his perfect record in the last four at Roland Garros with a straight-sets victory over Diego Schwartzman.

The Spaniard had never been beaten in the semi-finals of the clay-court grand slam, which he has won a record 12 times, though Schwartzman was the only man to have defeated him on his favoured surface this year.

Any hopes of a repeat of the Argentine's win in Rome last month were soon dashed, though, as Schwartzman failed to hold in the first two games of an opening set that went on for over an hour before Nadal emerged victorious.

The world number two was just as dominant in the next set and, despite a topsy-turvy third, Nadal won 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-0) to leave him one win from a record-equalling 20th grand slam.

Schwartzman had a break point on two occasions in Nadal's opening game but, after 14 minutes, the second seed held and soon moved 2-0 up.

Another break of serve then followed, but Nadal again hit back and went on to seize the set at the third time of asking.

Schwartzman played the shot of the match with an unfathomable chopped forehand winner down the line in the next set, but it was only a mere highlight as Nadal refused to let up, a second break putting him one set from victory.

Nadal has never lost when two sets up on clay but, after forging ahead in the third with a break, he failed to hold in successive service games, with two untimely unforced errors in the latter game giving Schwartzman a glimmer of hope.

The 12th seed had three break points to move 6-5 up but Nadal closed the door each time, and it was the favourite who showed a killer instinct in the tie-break to tee up a final against either Novak Djokovic or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

"I know against Diego it's very difficult until the end," Nadal said on court afterwards. 

"He's one of the players that makes more breaks [than anyone on] the tour. 

"Three weeks ago, I lost in Rome so I expected a very tough match. I'm happy with the way I played, I think I have been improving."

Rafael Nadal insists playing aggressively is ‘the only way’ to thrive in a unique French Open environment following his quarter-final win over unseeded Jannik Sinner.

The 12-time Roland Garros champion admits the importance of adapting to the heavier balls and colder conditions during October in Paris.

The Spaniard booked a semi-final clash against Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwarztman with a straight sets win over Sinner but Nadal’s 98th victory in 100 French Open matches was far from straightforward.

The 34-year-old recovered from a break down in both the first and second sets to claim a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 triumph against the 19-year-old Italian.

Page 1 of 13
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.