RAFAEL NADAL became the first man to win eight singles titles at a single Grand Slam with a straight-sets win over Spanish compatriot David Ferrer at the French Open yesterday.
The third seed dominated the match to win 6-3 6-2 6-3 in two hours and 16 minutes, making it seven titles from nine tournaments since his return from seven months out with a knee injury in February.
Nadal has now won 12 grand slam titles and 59 matches from 60 at Roland Garros, more than any other male player.
The final was dramatically interrupted in the second set by a masked protester carrying a flare who jumped onto Court Philippe Chatrier but was quickly tackled by security staff.
Nadal, who will drop behind Ferrer to number five in the world despite his victory, was presented with the Coupe des Mousquetaires by sprint king Usain Bolt.
The 27-year-old said: "It's one of the most special ones.
"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 realised something like this could happen for me."
It was difficult to find anyone at Roland Garros giving Ferrer much chance of even winning a set.
The 31-year-old had not dropped a set on his way to his first grand slam final but had won just one of his last 16 matches against Nadal.
Ferrer began with a perfect love service game but then threw in a poor one to hand Nadal a break in only the third game.
It was just what he did not want, but Nadal had not started particularly well either.
His forehand was misfiring and some better play from Ferrer gave him the chance to break back, which he took by winning a mammoth rally.
The crowd wanted to see a good match and roared their approval, but the underdog's parity did not last long.
He saved two break points in the seventh game but not a third, Nadal cranking up his forehand.
It certainly was not easy for the third seed and Ferrer had one chance to get back to 4-4, but it was swiftly taken away by a Nadal forehand.
Ferrer was already beginning to look short of ideas, dumping a tame drop shot in the net and then doing the same with a backhand as Nadal wrapped up the first set.
It was a similar story at the start of the second set as both had chances but it was Nadal who took his, his forehand into Ferrer's forehand corner causing the fourth seed no end of problems.
Rain began to fall and it looked more like Wimbledon as spectators huddled under umbrellas, although there was no such luxury for Bolt in the front row of the Presidential Box.
Ferrer is a renowned fighter and he dug in to hold for 3-1 and adopted a more aggressive approach as he forced four break points, but no one fights harder than Nadal and he saved them all.
It was all going rather too quickly for Ferrer, and Nadal broke again to lead 5-1 with another of those rapier forehands.
There was then a very dramatic moment as the masked protester jumped out of the crowd carrying a flare.
He was quickly tackled by security staff and wrestled to the ground, but Nadal was very close and appeared shaken as he promptly dropped serve.
It was a shock for players and spectators alike and the second set was settled when Ferrer served two double faults. He then dropped serve again in the second game of the third.
The rain began to fall harder and Ferrer did not want to continue but play did carry on, and the fourth seed promptly broke straight back.
Ferrer was threatening but could not take advantage of another break point in the seventh game – he took just three of 12 chances during the match – and when he double-faulted to hand Nadal a break in the next game, it was almost over.
That left the clay-court king serving for the match, and he needed just one chance to ensure he would be the man wearing the crown once again.