Rafael Nadal and the French Open is a match made in heaven. Ever since he first started playing in Roland Garros in 2005, he has accumulated records that are at a different level altogether. Here is a short snippet of his records. In his 16-year professional career, Rafael Nadal has lost only three times at the French Open. This has resulted in him winning the French Open a world record 13 times.
Consider this in the broader context of Tennis. Rafael Nadal’s tally of French Open titles is more than Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver’s overall tally of Grand Slam titles. Pete Sampras has won 14 titles overall but he never won the French Open. Even when you look at the women’s record, Nadal has won the French Open the most time. His tally of 13 French Open titles is the most for a single Grand Slam, overtaking Margaret Court’s record of 11 Australian Open titles.
The streaks that Rafael Nadal established in the French Open are simply staggering. He won four consecutive French Open titles from 2005 to 2008 before he lost his first game in 2009. After that, Nadal has dominated the last decade, winning five consecutive titles from 2010 to 2014. After a couple of years of struggle, Nadal won the French Open from 2017 to 2020.
Rafael Nadal has won over 100 matches on Roland Garros. Combined with his record in other clay-court events in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Rome where he has won over 10 titles, Nadal is the undisputed ‘Emperor of Clay’. Here is a summary of Nadal’s 13 titles on the red clay of Roland Garros.
|2005||Rafael Nadal||Mariano Puerta||6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5|
|2006||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4)|
|2007||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4|
|2008||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||6-1, 6-3, 6-0|
|2010||Rafael Nadal||Robin Soderling||6-4, 6-2, 6-4|
|2011||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1|
|2012||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5|
|2013||Rafael Nadal||David Ferrer||6-3, 6-2, 6-3|
|2014||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Stan Wawrinka||6-2, 6-3, 6-1|
|2018||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||6-4, 6-3, 6-2|
|2019||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1|
|2020||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||6-0, 6-2, 7-5|
In Nadal’s 16 years as a professional in Tennis, only two players have managed to do the unthinkable in Roland Garros. Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic are the two warriors who ended Nadal’s invincible aura at the French Open. It was Soderling who defeated Nadal first in 2009 as he ended his 31-match winning streak.
But, Djokovic has shown why he is the greatest player in the modern era. He has not only beaten Nadal in French Open but he went on to achieve history on both occasions. Djokovic beat Nadal in straight sets in the 2015 French Open quarterfinal. The Serb went on to achieve the career Grand Slam. Six years later, Djokovic beat Nadal and he went on to become the first player in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams two times or more. Here is a summary of how these two players defeated Nadal at the French Open.
Nadal looked ominous in the first three rounds as he won in straight sets. This included one over former Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt. But, in the fourth round, there was a shock. It was suspected that Nadal was carrying an injury into the match. Against Robin Soderling, he lost the first set 2-6 but he won the second set via a tie-breaker. But, Nadal clearly struggled as the match went on and he went on to lose the next two sets 4-6 and 6-7 (2). It was a shock for all the fans present at Court Phillippe Chatrier. Many people thought the French Open was Nadal’s sentinel. But, Soderling proved that the Spaniard could be mortal on clay. Nadal’s loss was Federer’s gain as he managed to complete the career Grand Slam by beating Soderling in the final.
Nadal had already won five consecutive French Open titles after the loss in 2009. He breezed through the first three rounds before he was stretched to four sets by Jack Sock in the fourth round. But, in the quarterfinal, he met a determined Novak Djokovic who put in a display for the ages. Djokovic was dominant right from the word go and Nadal never recovered. The Serb inflicted Nadal’s first straight-set defeat in the French Open as he beat him 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinal. This paved the way for Djokovic to achieve the career Grand Slam in 2015.
In 2021, Djokovic was gunning for history. He reached the semi-final where he once again squared off with Nadal. In a titanic tussle, it was Djokovic who prevailed. Nadal won the first set but Djokovic bounced back. He won the second set and clinched the third set via a tie-breaker. Djokovic clinched the match by winning the fourth set 6-2 as he became the first individual to beat Nadal twice at the French Open. Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to become the first individual to win all four Grand Slams twice in the Open Era.