Rafael Nadal wins French Open for record eighth time
6-3 6-2 6-3 victory over fourth seed and Spanish compatriot David Ferrer
Nadal winning his 12th grand slam title
Flare carrying protestor invades court in opposition to France's same sex marriage law
Rafael Nadal raced to a record eighth French Open title Sunday with a straight sets 6-3 6-2 6-3 dismissal of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in a final briefly interrupted by a protestor brandishing a lighted flare.
Nadal was serving for the second set at 5-1 when a shirtless man with a white mask ran onto the Philippe Chatrier Court and came to within a few meters of Nadal.
He was swiftly tackled by security staff – Nadal shook the hand of one of them – but when play continued red smoke was still billowing over the court.
Perhaps shaken, Nadal dropped his service but quickly regained his composure to close out the set in the next game.
Protesters aside, the weather looked the only other obstacle to another Nadal triumph at Roland Garros.
Persistent drizzle was in evidence throughout the match, but the heavier rain held off long enough for the reigning champion to wrap up victory in two hours 16 minutes.
It was his 12th grand slam title and particularly sweet after his prolonged eight-month absence from the game with a knee injury – only returning to the ATP circuit in February.
He also becomes the first man to win the same grand slam title eight times – breaking out of a tie with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, who have seven wins apiece at Wimbledon.
Nadal’s reputation as the “King of Clay” was further enhanced by his epic semifinal victory over No.1 Novak Djokovic, but his friend and long-time rival Ferrer was to prove stiff opposition despite the scoreline.
The 31-year-old fourth seed briefly led in the first set after an early break, but Nadal was soon back on track and claimed two breaks of his own to take the advantage.
The second set was more one-sided, Ferrer making his only gain against service after the protest.
Clearly impatient to close out his victory, Nadal immediately broke at the start of the third, but in trying to press made mistakes to be broken back.
He broke through again to take a 5-3 lead and duly served out comfortably for victory, falling back on to the clay in trademark fashion to celebrate after a whipped forehand winner on championship point.
“It’s one of the most special ones,” said an emotional Nadal.
“In the last year I have had some low moments but without my family I would not have done this. Without my physio I could not have done this. I never realized something like this could happen for me.”
Ferrer, who was playing in his first grand slam final, conceded he had been up against an inspired opponent.
“I enjoyed the two weeks here. I congratulate Rafa, he’s the best,” he said.
“But I will try my best to have another chance to play in a final and win a grand slam. This tournament is very special to me.”
Nadal was presented with his trophy by Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, who had been sitting in the VIP Box with Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Both had born close witness to the earlier court invasion, which appeared to be linked with a simultaneous incident on the nearby Suzanne Lenglen Court, where several protestors also lit flares and displayed banners opposed to France’s same sex marriage legislation.
Two people were also ushered from the main stadium court after holding up a signs opposing the measure, which was passed last month amid widespread opposition in France.
It is 20 years since the infamous incident at a tournament in Hamburg when Monica Seles was stabbed in the back on court by Guenter Parche and did not return to tennis until 1995.
The 2009 French final was also held up when a man ran on the court and tried to put a red hat on the eventual winner Roger Federer. He was tackled by security but only after jumping the net.