PARIS - The weather-jinxed French Open final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was halted yesterday after a second rain interruption, with the conclusion provisionally scheduled for today at 11 A.M.
The high-voltage contest lasted for three hours of play, with Nadal ahead 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2 before falling victim to a dire weather report which is also predicting more rain Monday.
There was plenty at stake for both competitors, with Nadal bidding to lift an unprecedented seventh title at Roland Garros, and Djokovic aiming to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam title at the same time.
Nadal won the first two sets at an hour each but faltered in the third as the frustrated Djokovic finally came to life, getting an early break back and running off a string of eight straight games to win the third set and take a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
But that time, Nadal had been complaining for 30 minutes to the chair umpire about the unfairness of playing in such conditions.
"We can't move (control ) the ball now, we have to stop," he said before the pair were sent back to the locker room.
Nadal, with 10 Grand Slam titles, has lost only one match at Roland Garros (in 2009, to Robin Soderling ) while winning six titles and 51 matches.
Djokovic held a hoodoo over the king of clay after defeating Nadal in seven straight finals from March, 2011, through the Australian Open four months ago, a six-hour epic which left both men barely able to stand.
But Nadal recovered on the clay as he beat the Serb for record-setting trophies at Monte Carlo and Rome - another final which was played on a Monday due to rain.
Nadal got off a flyer at the start with two quick breaks only to be pegged back by Djokovic as the Serb closed the gap to three games apiece after a Nadal double-fault set up a break point, which yielded a backhand wide.
As umbrellas went up for inevitable drizzle, Djokovic gave the break straight back, losing serve on his own double for the fifth break of the first seven games.
Nadal, who had lost one serve in six matches to reach the final, closed out the set three games later, his drop shot setting up a pair of set points and a forehand winner finishing the job in 58 minutes.
Jittery Djokovic double-faulted away the opening game of the second, but was again overtaken by a winning Djokovic lob which brought the score back to 2-2.
Djokovic showed great sportsmanship when he gifted Nadal a point over a wrong line call as the rally should have been replayed, but then got a warning for racket abuse as the Serb smashed his stick against his sideline bench after losing serve for 3-4 as the drizzle picked up slightly.
The damaged furniture was discreetly replaced during the rain delay which came at the start of the ninth game after Nadal served a love game.
With the pause lasting only 35 minutes, the relief for Djokovic was short-lived. The Serb suddenly found himself down two sets to love after a few minutes of play as Nadal sent a passing winner to the empty court for a break of serve to end the second set.
Djokovic found his own ray of mental sunshine amid the gloom as he came back from a break early in the third set and took his first lead of the match at 3-2.
The No. 1 took heart as he broke again for 5-2 and climbed back into the match with a 6-2 third after winning six games in succession, as Nadal complained to the chair umpire about the decision to keep playing in the steady light rain.
Djokovic won a 44-shot rally to start the fourth set and finished that effort by breaking for 1-0, with Nadal looking increasingly fragile and annoyed.
Nadal finally got back on the scoreboard in the third game of the fourth set but after an hour of playing in the drizzle the match was then stopped by referee Stefan Franssen, with Nadal wondering why it happened then after his repeated urgings to the chair.
The last French Open final to extend past a Sunday finish was in 1973.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now