Rafael Nadal routs Novak Djokovic in French Open final, ties Roger Federer’s Slam record


Rafael Nadal didn’t boast about arguably his greatest performance yet. In the minutes after the French Open men’s final, when, annually, the sports world is most focused on him, he spoke behind a pink face mask about the challenge the globe is facing.

“I want to send a message everyone around the world,” he said. “Just keep going, stay positive. .. We will go through this and we will win [against] the virus soon.”

Nadal also refused to take delight in tying Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles. He kept the discussion on one of those four major tournaments and what he called “a love story” with the city of Paris.

“It’s not the moment, honestly not for me, I don’t think today about the 20th of equal Roger on this great number,” Nadal, now 100-2 at the French Open, said on Court Philippe Chatrier. “Today is just a Roland Garros victory. Roland Garros means everything to me. I spent here the most important moments, or most of the most important moments of my tennis career, no doubt.”

Nadal authored one of those special moments Sunday, a few-would-have-predicted rout of Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to lift a record-extending 13th Coupe des Mousquetaires and draw level with Federer for the first time.

“I was completely overplayed by Rafa,” said the world No. 1 Djokovic, arguably the pre-tournament and pre-final favorite who suffered his first completed-match loss in 11 months. “He played a perfect match.”

In the most prolific rivalry in Open Era men’s tennis, Nadal held Djokovic to the fewest games won by either player in their best-of-five history. Until Djokovic tested him in the third set, Nadal was en route to the most lopsided Grand Slam men’s final in 43 years.

The match was reminiscent of the 2019 Australian Open final, when Djokovic shellacked Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Nadal referenced this on court Sunday, soon after match point.

“In Australia, he killed me a couple of times ago,” Nadal said. “Today was for me. That’s part of the game.”

MORE: All-time Grand Slam singles titles list

For Nadal, doubt is always part of the game. He had plenty of it at the start of the pandemic-postponed tournament two weeks ago.

In September in Rome, his first tournament in nearly seven months, Nadal suffered a rare straight-sets loss on clay, to Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

In his pre-French Open press conference, Nadal provided pessimism (not uncommon for him, even before this tournament).

He noted extreme weather conditions, temperatures in the 50s that he would say later in the tournament were too unsafe to be holding matches. And a different brand of tennis ball, one he said was too dangerous for use on clay, becoming so heavy that it could harm a player’s elbows and shoulders.

“Honestly, one month and a half ago, if you tell me you’re going to have this trophy with you again, I will say, this year will probably be too difficult,” Nadal said.

Yet Nadal marched into the final without dropping a set, including a semifinal grudge match with Schwartzman. He said his level of play would not be enough against Djokovic.

“I need to make a step forward,” Nadal said Friday.

Rafael Nadal's 20 Grand Slam singles titles
Rafael Nadal’s 20 Grand Slam singles titles. (Getty Images)

That happened quickly on a rainy Sunday under a closed Chatrier roof (another new feature this year that was supposed to hinder Nadal). The Spaniard hit 10 winners to two unforced errors in the opening set. It took 55 minutes for Djokovic to win his first game.

“He did surprise me,” Djokovic said. “The quality of tennis he was producing, the level. I mean, he’s phenomenal.”

Add it to Nadal’s greatest hits list, which also includes the 2008 French Open final (6-1, 6-3, 6-0 over Federer) and the 2017 French Open final (6-2, 6-3, 6-1 over Stan Wawrinka).

“I played at my highest level when I needed to play at my highest level,” Nadal said. “The personal satisfaction is big because under the circumstances that we played this Roland Garros, even if I played an amazing match this afternoon, the conditions are a little bit not the conditions that I will choose, never, to play an event like this.”

Forty-three minutes after match point, Federer, sidelined after two knee surgeries, shared his thoughts on social media. Nadal, 34, has never outwardly engaged in the trophy race with Djokovic (17 Slams at age 33) and Federer (39 years old). He reverted to a familiar refrain Sunday.

“I’m not going to be thinking all the time Novak have this one, Roger is winning the other one,” he said. “You can’t be always unhappy because your neighbor have a bigger house than you or a bigger boat or have a better phone. You have to live your personal life, no?”

It will still dominate the men’s tennis discussion going into the next major, the Australian Open in January. Djokovic has won that a male record eight times. The Serbian missed his chance over the last 35 days to draw level with Nadal.

At the U.S. Open, he shouldered the blame, defaulted in the fourth round for striking a ball in anger that hit a linesperson in the throat. Neither Nadal nor Federer entered the tournament.

In Paris, Nadal dictated Djokovic’s demise.

“It’s just one of these days where you have to just say, Chapeau, and well done,” said Djokovic, who has been working on his French.

For everything that’s gone wrong in 2020, the Grand Slam season ended with arguably the most beautiful scene in modern tennis: Nadal biting the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Chatrier.

“This court is the most important court in my tennis career, the court that I enjoyed more special moments,” Nadal said, “and today was one of these.”

MORE: Poland Garros! Swiatek wins bonkers French Open

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

USA Basketball

SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final