Ferrer entered Sunday 4-19 against Nadal. On clay, Nadal had 16 consecutive victories over Ferrer, whose only head-to-head win on the surface came the first time they played, in July 2004, when Nadal was 18.
Nadal had yet to make his French Open debut then, missing it that year because of a broken left foot. On May 23, 2005, Nadal played his first match at Roland Garros, beating Lars Burgsmuller 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Court 1, known as the “bullring” because of its oval shape.
And so began the reign.
There was occasional shakiness this year. Nadal lost the first set of each of his first two matches and was pushed to a tiebreaker to begin his third.
He barely edged No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in a thrilling semifinal that lasted more than 4½ hours and ended 9-7 in the fifth set Friday.
By any measure, that match was far more enjoyable to take in than the final, akin to dining on a filet mignon accompanied by a well-aged bottle of Bordeaux one day, then grabbing a hot dog and can of soda from a street vendor 48 hours later.
Under a leaden sky that eventually would release a steady shower from the second set on, Ferrer felt nerves at the outset, he acknowledged later. But after the players traded early breaks, Ferrer held for a 3-2 lead.
That’s when Nadal took over, winning seven games in a row and 12 of 14. His court coverage was impeccable, as usual, showing no signs of any problems from that left knee, which was supported by a band of white tape. His lefty forehand whips were on-target, accounting for 19 of his 35 winners and repeatedly forcing errors from Ferrer.
When Nadal did have lapses, he admonished himself, once slapping his forehead with his right palm after pushing a lob wide. But what’s demoralizing for opponents is the way Nadal slams the door when they have openings, then rushes through when he gets the slightest chance.
As Nadal prepared to serve in the next game, a man wearing a white mask and carrying a fiery flare jumped out of the stands nearby. The intruder quickly was shoved to the ground by one security guard, while another went to protect Nadal.
“I felt a little bit scared at the first moment,” Nadal said, “because I didn’t see what’s going on.”
It happened within a few minutes of other actions by protesters, including chanting from the upper deck that briefly delayed play. Police said seven people were held for questioning.
Nadal got broken in that game, then broke back right away to take the second set.