Rafael Nadal’s top five Roland Garros title victories
Reliving the legendary Spaniard’s five greatest successes at his most beloved Grand Slam of the year.
Words are a part, but not the whole. No matter how vivid the description of an event or individual may be, it stoops and stops, and falls short in providing an all-encompassing description of true greatness; leaving a void that can be filled only by emotions and expressions. Rafael Nadal’s love-affair with the Roland Garros is something similar – an annual event so magnificent that words are simply not enough to get a real sense of how beautiful and majestic the occasion is.
Rank 5: Year 2018
The Spaniard was in sensational form going into the 2018 French Open. He had won three clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome in the months leading up to the competition, making him an even more daunting prospect in Paris. After breezing through his first four matches where he dropped just a single set, Nadal met No.5 seed Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals and beat him as if he was never there. In the final, Spain’s Raging Bull bullied the young and promising Dominic Thiem in straight sets to make it 11 French Open wins in 14 attempts.
Rank 4: Year 2006
Nadal’s second French Open title in as many years was special as it put an end to Roger Federer’s invincibility at Grand Slams at the time. The Swiss had won all three previous Majors and was in with a chance of becoming only the third player after Don Budge and Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time. ‘Rafa’ though, had other ideas as he produced a masterclass performance to beat Federer 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in a match that lasted just over three hours.
Rank 3: Year 2017
Easily one of the greatest moments in sport, the legendary Mallorcan claimed his 10th French Open title with a blistering 6-2 6-3 6-1 win over the No.3 seed Stan Wawrinka in the final. The title ended his three-year wait for a slam title and made him immortal in the game of tennis. He didn’t drop a single set in the entire tournament – the third time it had happened after his triumphs in 2008 and 2010. To give a further sense of how extraordinary Nadal was in the event – the ‘King of Clay’ won having lost a mere 35 games all tournament; a stat bettered only by Bjorn Borg’s run through Paris in 1978, where he dropped just 32 games.
Rank 2: Year 2008
His fourth French Open win on the trot, Nadal’s 6-1 6-3 6-0 decimation of the then-World.No1 Federer in the final was arguably his best match ever on the clay courts of Paris and is just a narrow miss for the first spot. The crowds, which included the legendary Bjorn Borgon who sat in the front row, came to Court Philippe Chatrier that day hoping to witness a classic and see someone finally end the Spaniard’s astonishing monopoly over the Roland Garros. What they saw, however, was slaughter and a domination that at times, bordered cruelty.
Rank 1: Year 2005
The start of it all, the 2005 French Open is pretty much the most important tournament of the Spaniard’s career, as it made him what he is today. At the ripe age old of 18, ten days short of his 19th birthday, Nadal played his first-ever Roland-Garros match on No.1 court; his first and last appearance on the less-glamourous courts of Paris. He went into the tournament as an outsider who the world saw as someone who had the potential to become a possible legend. However, not even a single soul could have called what Nadal produced, beating tournament favourite Federer in the semis before trumping Mariano Puerta in the final to claim his first of the 12 French Open titles.
Words: Chandan Pandey