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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Nadal’s excellency in the Roland Garros

Por Fidel Orihuela

Just to win a Grand Slam is a very complex challenge in any tennis player career. The cream and the crop of this sport gathers in Australia, Paris, London and the USA and for them to win at least one title in one of these competitions is of utmost importance. Some stars have been through their careers without ever knowing what to win one of these tournaments is and others, on the other hand, can showcase the many prizes they have won in these competitions.

One of them is Rafael Nadal Parera, ten times winner of the Roland Garros tournament and undoubtedly the absolute king of the clay courts. He has got in total 16 Grand Slam titles, only surpassed by the amazing Swiss Roger Federer (20). In 2010, he became the seventh male player in history and youngest of five in the Open Era to achieve the Career Grand Slam (The Australian Open, Wimbledon, the US Open and Roland Garros also known as the French Open) at age 24.

It is true that if Federer has been more consistent on hard courts and the Wimbledon grass courts, Nadal has been hard to beat at clay courts, where the list of achievements of superstar players like Max Decugis y Björn Borg have proven short in comparison with his.

2005: Nadal got to Paris after winning in Montecarlo, Barcelona y Rome, the three clay court opens before the Roland Garros. With a juvenile face and long hair, the 19-year-old boy defeated Lars Bursgmuller, the Belgian Xavier Malisse, the hosts Richard Gasquet and Sébastien Grosjean, and his fellow countryman David Ferrer. In the semifinals he would play against Roger Federer, who, at the time, had already won four Grand Slams. He defeated Federer also and then finished his feat in match against the Argentinian Mariano Puerta, with scores of 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 y 7-5.

2006: After a triumphal path from Montecarlo to Rome, Nadal would get to Paris to defend his title as the favorite one to win the tournament. He had been winning in clay courts for 53 games and in his debut facing Robin Söderling he did it again extending his winning streak to 54 and breaking the former record of the Argentinian Guillermo Vilas. This would be a preamble of the excellent competition he would had because he only lost in 3 sets and defeated Kevin Kim, P.H. Mathieu, Lleyton Hewitt, Novak Djokovic, Ivan Ljubičić and again Roger Federer in this same order. In this last game he was still recovering from losing with Federer in the first part of the tournament by 1-6. He would strike back and win then 6-1 and with after this tie he would win 6-4 and 7-6.

2007: By this year, the idea of breaking all the records in clay courts was still not an actual thought in Nadal’s mind, but some comments began to arise about this possibility. With his third win in a row, there was only one title to obtain that would equal Björn Borg’s streak of wins. In this opportunity, Nadal did not lose one set in the Philippe Chatrier or Suzanne Lenglen courts, leaving on the way Juan Martín del Potro, Flavio Cipolla, Albert Montanes, Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Novak Djokovic. The final match was against Federer, which he defeated in a very tight game that lasted more than 3 hours by 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 and 6-4.

2008: Nadal’s era of perfection arrived in this magical year, in which he achieved a double win. To his perfect win in Paris he added his first Wimbledon Tournament. He defeated some important players again, like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer again in the finals, but the most impressive thing is that he accomplished this without losing one set throughout the tournament (21-0).

2010: The previous year, Nadal had won for the first time in Australia but he was eliminated afterwards in the round of sixteen by Robin Söderling. He came back ready to take revenge and life served him the opportunity of getting even in a match with the Swedish himself, whom he defeated to seal yet another tournament without losing any set (21-0). “One of the most important and emotional days. A year ago I left here incredibly sad but I have proved myself that I can do it again”, said the Spanish tennis player, who, later that same year, would win in Wimbledon and the US Open, the first and only time in his career in which he would make a triple win.

2011: Having already won 5 crowns in clay courts, Nadal came into this season with former successes in both Montecarlo and Barcelona, but due to the defeats in the finals of Madrid and Rome he was not considered favorite to win in Paris. However, he only lost two sets until the finals in a very tight game against the North-American John Isner. Afterward, he won all the games that would take him to the finals, in which he would surpass Federer 7-5, 7-6, 5-7 and 6-1 to add yet another prize to his former five ones.

2012: Undefeated until the last game and with very few ones lost, Rafael faced the impressive Novak Djokovic, who had won the Triple Crown in 2011. Nadal was ahead with 6-4 and 6-3 with a couple of breaks but lost in the second set (2-6) when it started to rain. According to the Spanish team, this rain worked to his advantage because despite his efforts Djokovic could not win the next day thus making of Nadal the maximum winner of the French Open with seven prizes.

2013: Never in the history of his games in clay courts did he suffer as much as he did in the 2013 edition of the Roland Garros. He lost sets in his two first rounds and then in the semifinals. In the finals, he would again play against Djokovic, this time for four hours until he won (6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 y 9-7) to obtain his eighth win, the fourth one in a row.

2014: For the first time in history a tennis player achieved the feat of winning five French Opens in a row. It couldn’t be other than Rafael Nadal. He arrived to the finals with just one lost set. Undoubtedly an intimidating stage for any opponent, even for Djokovic, champion in every one of the courts and unquestionable number one of the planet. He wanted the title in the clay court as well but Nadal was determined not to let go of it. He got an incredible record of 66 wins and just one defeat in clay courts. He had won nine times out of ten since he started.

2017: After two years of not very good results, Nadal returned with an immense drive and he did not lose one set in Paris. His rivals were impressed by his renewed strength, impossible to match. He could not be stopped by the rising star Dominic Thiem or by the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, winner in 2015. He would then achieve the incredible feat of having won 10 Roland Garros.