|Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's final at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris June 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
Paris, FRANCE - Rafael Nadal continued his reign as the clay court king, besting Roger Federer in four sets to win the French Open for a second straight year.
Nadal, who triumphed 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-1, became just the second man in history to win six titles at Roland Garros, tying the all-time record set by Bjorn Borg between 1974 and 1981.
It's the fourth time in six years Nadal captured the French Open against Federer. The last time the two met in the final in 2008, Nadal gave up just four games. The 2011 version saw Federer start the match strong with a 5-2 lead, only to have Nadal win the next seven games.
With a 17-8 all-time mark against Federer and having captured the final against him for three straight years (2006-08) in the past, Nadal solidified his dominance by winning his 10th Grand Slam title. The world No. 1 player moved to 45-1 all-time at Roland Garros. It was his 46th career championship, third this year.
This was their eighth meeting in a Grand Slam title match, extending their record for the most meetings between two players in a major final.
Nadal has lost just two Grand Slam finals, both at Wimbledon against Federer. He also became the first No. 1 seed to win the championship in Paris since Gustavo Kuerten in 2001. Nadal's other titles at this event came over Mariano Puerta in 2005 and vs. Robin Soderling last year.
The 2009 French Open champion, Federer topped Novak Djokovic in the semifinals two days earlier, but was denied his 17th major trophy. His last, which extended a record, came at the 2010 Australian Open.
The third-seeded Federer suffered his only double fault of the match during the fourth game of the final set, giving Nadal the break and a 3-1 lead. Another break of serve provided put the Super Swiss on the brink and Nadal fell to his knees with victory glory after Federer's return sailed long.
Just two days removed from his 25th birthday, Nadal is quickly ascending up the major title charts, winning four of the last five such tournaments. Nadal is just one day older than Borg when he won his sixth title at Roland Garros.
Coming off a three-set win over Andy Murray in the semifinals, Nadal fell behind early and seemed in danger of being dethroned. He lost the first three games before the players held serve until 'Rafa' stabbed the momentum away by using his quick feet that turned into great court coverage. He broke in to get a cross-court shot. Federer was left with a wide open court, but the forehand return crumpled into the net, giving Nadal the crucial break and trimming the deficit to 5-4.
By winning the last three points of the ensuing game, a pair coming on errant backhands from Federer, Nadal made up the deficit. The Spaniard then edged ahead 6-5 thanks in part to a tight line call on a Federer serve that was ruled barely wide. A backhand into the net by Federer finished that game.
A blistering forehand passing shot closed the first set for Nadal, and he broke serve to begin the second, racing back to net a forehand winner. After Nadal held in game two, Federer finally broke the drought.
Nadal's one-break advantage held all the way until the eighth game. That's when Nadal fought off a pair of break points thanks to long returns from Federer, but then a poorly hit backhand from Nadal barely even reached the net, squaring the set at 4-4.
Federer, who had 56 unforced errors, failed to gain momentum on his serve. He saved a pair of quick break points, but on the third a backhand by the greatest Grand Slam champion went well wide.
Rain started to fall when Nadal was on the verge of taking a two-set lead. Just as the drops started to fall quickly, Nadal sent a return off the net and long, ultimately delayed the match for 10 minutes due to the conditions. It was the first delay of the tournament.
Shortly after returning to the court, another flub of the racket for Nadal, this one on a forehand return, squared the set at 5-5. Both players then dominated on their serves to force the tiebreaker.
Nadal won the first four games of the breaker and gave up the next two, but he finally finished off Federer in the set with a zooming forehand passing shot.
The players traded breaks of serve in the middle of the third set. Nadal held a 4-2 edge, but was then broken at love. Federer later used a spectacular drop shot to the right rear corner, catching Nadal out of position for a 6-5 lead. Federer had a faultless service game to move the match to a fourth set, but couldn't rally in an attempt to win a 68th career championship in his 23rd Grand Slam final.