PARIS (USA TODAY) - Rafael Nadal had to wait a while for history, but he made it just the same.
Photo Gallery: French Open Nadal vs. Djokovic
Nadal captured his Open-era record seventh French Open crown, defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in the rain-suspended men's final at Roland Garros. Nadal breaks his tie with Bjorn Borg at the clay-court major.
"This is my favorite tournament of the world," Nadal told the French crowd in his on-court interview.
It is Nadal's 11th Grand Slam title, moving him into a tie for fourth all time with Rod Laver and Borg, trailing only Roger Federer (16), Pete Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12).
"He's definitely the best player in history on this surface and the results are showing that he's one of the best-ever players to play this game," Djokovic said.
He also ends Djokovic's streak of three consecutive Grand Slam titles, denying the world No. 1 a chance to become the first since Laver to own all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. Djokovic had defeated Nadal in the three previous Slam finals, including a nearly six-hour match at the Australian Open in January.
Nadal, of Spain, runs his record at Roland Garros to 52-1.
The match picked up Monday with Djokovic serving at 2-1 in the fourth set, and he was immediately broken. There were no more break points, until championship point. Djokovic double faulted to end the match.
"It was a very difficult match against the best player in the world," Nadal said. "I lost three Grand Slam finals - Wimbledon, the U.S. Open last year, and the Australian Open this year. I'm very happy, very emotional."
After serving his fourth double-fault of the match, Djokovic dropped his head and slumped his shoulders, an emotional two-day adventure complete, and not with the result he wanted.
"I don't need to be disappointed. ... This is the best result I ever had at Roland Garros. There are many more majors to come," Djokovic told NBC.
Nadal lost only three points on his serve after the resumption of play on Monday, which once again was hampered by rain. It began falling in the middle of the set, nearly forcing another delay.
After more than three hours on Sunday, Nadal needed about 49 minutes Monday to close it out.
A match with so much of tennis history riding on it proved awkward and frustrating for both players.
Djokovic was throwing rackets around early in the final, then Nadal was complaining bitterly as the rain picked up late Sunday, the tennis balls got heavy and officials refused to stop the match.
Djokovic rolled through the third set as the rain turned the heavy red clay into more of a muddy paste. He had all the momentum when play was halted, up a break early in the fourth. The weather cleared well before dusk Sunday and Djokovic said he was sitting around the changing room, ready to play. But officials decided to call it a washout, setting up the first non-Sunday finish at the French Open since 1973, when Ilie Nastase wrapped up his title on a Tuesday.
"I said, 'Good, we've had some luck. If we hadn't stopped, we were going home,'" said Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni Nadal. "Because Rafael was a bit blocked and Djokovic wasn't missing any balls. He was hitting them all well. So we had some luck."
When Nadal and Djokovic came back to Roland Garros on Monday under cloudy skies, they shook hands as they passed each other on the practice court. A bit later, the match resumed. Both the surface on Court Phillippe-Chartier and the tennis balls had dried out, and Nadal looked more like he usually does - sliding into his stops, spinning his shots, moving Djokovic around, always getting one more ball back.
The closing double fault was one of 15 unforced errors in the set for Djokovic, who went back to trying to end points early and blunt the huge advantage Nadal has sliding around on clay. When the surface was muddy, the evening before in the third set, Djokovic only made eight unforced errors.
"I'm not going back, saying it's your fault and your fault because I lost," Djokovic said. "It's unfortunate because I was playing better, feeling better on the court in the third set yesterday. Today, he started strong. I started slower. I was a little bit unfortunate in that first game and things turned around."