Few of us expected fireworks in the French Open final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, but we gladly could have done without the ones that appeared at the end of the second set. What had been a routine, one-sided match suddenly turned frightening, as two shirtless, flare-carrying anti-gay marriage protester-idiots stormed the court and headed in Nadal’s direction. French security quickly bundled and body-slammed them off the court; thankfully we didn't have to see what they had in store for Rafa and the rest of the world. But a creepy chill settled over Court Philippe Chatrier, and it would stay there for the rest of the match.
Otherwise, this was even less of a contest than had been predicted. Nadal had his serve broken in the first set and survived four break points at 3-1 in the second, but that was as much resistance as Ferrer could muster. In their previous two matches, in Madrid and Rome, Ferrer had taken a set and forced Nadal to dig deep, but not this time. Even more than usual, Rafa looked for his forehand, and he dominated with it. After a 3rd-gear first set, he raised his level of play to its absolute highest at the start of the second, stringing together a brilliant and varied series of dive-bombing ground strokes to make it 3-0. Nadal finished with 35 winners against 25 errors, a more than respectable ratio on a rainy day. Who says he can’t hit through heavy conditions?
Ferrer’s last stand came when he earned four break chances with Nadal serving at 3-1 in the second. On the last of them, the two ripped and ran through a 29-shot rally, one which Ferrer controlled until the 28th. Just as he had on a big point in their match in Madrid, Ferrer took a short ball and, rather than hit it into the open court, tried to go behind Rafa. Just as he had in Madrid, Rafa stayed home, and was ready with a winning backhand pass. As always, he was one step, and one thought, ahead of his countryman.
Last month in Rome, Nadal beat Roger Federer for the 20th time. Two days ago, he beat Novak Djokovic for the 20th time. Today he did the same to Ferrer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, running their career head-to-head to 20-4. Ferrer tried to grind out long rallies, and when that didn't work he tried to take control of points with his own forehand. But he had precious few short-ball opportunities from Rafa. Ferrer finished with 22 winners against 35 errors. More than a few of those errors came on break points; he converted just three of 12. As he said afterward, "I was a little bit nervous...I didn't play too good."
Nadal wins his eighth title at Roland Garros, a record for any man at any Grand Slam in the Open era. It also serves an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable comeback—he has reached the finals of all nine events he has played in 2013, and won seven of them. He’s also, despite having missed the Australian Open, the first man to qualify for the year-end championships in London.
Rain, injury, time away; Djokovic, Ferrer, even a couple of morons carrying fire—no one can take Paris from Nadal.