June 11 | 06

At just 20 years of age, Rafa won his 60th consecutive clay court match and retained his French Open crown, the first man to do so since Gustavo Kuerten in 2001. After 182 minutes Rafa wrapped up victory against the world number one, Roger Federer 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4).

Under the sizzling Paris sunshine both men walked out to a match surrounded by media hype and expectation. It was the first time at Roland Garros that the number one and two seeds had contested the final since 1984, and with both men clearly the two best players in the game, the tennis world had high hopes of a classic match. This sat heavily on both their shoulders as the match got underway at 3pm CET and the crowd found themselves counting the unforced errors rather than the winners.

However, it was Federer who settled into the final first, and having saved break points in his opening service game, he quickly raced to a 5-0 lead stunning the Philippe Chatrier Court. Federer was simply un-playable in set one and there was little Rafa could do to stop the run of games against him. But the Spaniard did manage to earn himself break points on the Swiss' serve throughout the set to remind Federer he was still there and despite conceding the first set 6-1, Rafa was certainly not out of the match.

This proved to be the case from the word "Go" in the second set. Rafa's nerves settled down, he found his rhythm, and Federer did not know what had hit him. A superb backhand passing shot broke the Swiss' serve in the second game of the set after Federer has been 40-0 up in the game, and Rafa quickly consolidated for 3-0. The tide changed very quickly in the match, and it was Rafa who was bossing the points and dictating play, rather than Federer as had been the case in the first set. Decked out in his trademark Nike piratas, the young Majorcan broke Federer again for 5-1 and levelled the match at one set all as Federer returned Rafa's serve wide.
Roger Federer hit 51 unforced errors in the match and never were these more apparent than in the third and fourth sets. The crowd could only watch on in amazement as the normally impeccable Swiss failed to control his ground strokes and miss returns.

The inconsistent Federer played a great game at 2-1 in the third set, and Rafa was forced to save four break points. However, after missing his opportunities owing to brave play from Rafa, Federer then played a loose service game of his own and Rafa took the initiative and with his solid, consistent play, he took a 3-2 lead.

It had been a low key start from both men to the third set, and it was Rafa who found his form first, having broken Federer's serve he then held his own games confidently throughout the set, and when he came to serve for a two sets to one advantage, Rafa showed no nerves in putting Federer away for a 6-4 set.

With the crowd doing the Mexican wave and Rafa feeding off their energy, it was no surprise to see him carry his momentum into set four and he immediately broke the Federer serve to send the Spanish fans into a frenzy. Rafa had a relatively comfortable ride through most of set four. Federer was unable to find his best tennis and he was unable to trouble the Majorcan on his serve. His usually destructive forehand was misfiring and he couldn't find a way into Rafa's service games as he was serving well.

There is a reason why Federer is number one though, and no one counted him out, even when Rafa stepped up to serve for the Championship. Federer showed his mettle in that key game and played some of his best tennis of the set from 30-30 to break Rafa's serve and put himself on level terms in the tense fourth set.

The Swiss then moved himself into a 6-5 lead and the crowd watched to see how Rafa would react to this sudden turn of events. He reacted like a champion. Despite having been just two points from defending his French Open crown, Rafa steeled himself and held his serve easily to force Federer into a tie break.

Once there, Rafa raised his game and despite suffering an early mini break, he quickly bounced back and forced Federer into making crucial errors. This punishing play led Rafa to two Championship points at 6-4 and he did not falter on his first. He was aggressive and brave and didn't hold back as he put the final shot past Federer before falling on his back on the clay in delight.

The ever gracious Federer gave him a warm handshake at the net before Rafa rolled around in the clay some more and then went to celebrate with his friends and family who had been behind him every step of the way.

In the presentation ceremony which took place after the Spanish National Anthem, Rafa composed himself to say, "Congratulations to Roger?Thank you to the crowd who have supported me so much every time I've played here on my favourite court (Philippe Chatrier)?Thank you to my family and to Carlos Costa and Benito and the ATP, I could never have imagined I'd be here."
Believe it Rafa. Well done - you are simply the best!

Written by: Kate Flory