Top 10: Ranking King of Clay Rafael Nadal’s French Open titles
Rafael Nadal is without doubt the King of Clay with 10 French Open titles to his name, so we asked Reuben Young to rank them.
10. 2017 v Stanislas Wawrinka
Winning a Grand Slam is no easy feat that can’t be ignored, however not facing either of the top two in the world on route to victory makes it a little less tough to lift the title.
His 10th French Open trophy win was quite possibly his easiest. The Spaniard managed to win Roland Garros without losing a set for the third time, equalling Bjorn Borg record.
The first three rounds opponents of Benoît Paire, Robin Haase and Nikoloz Bashilashvili were somewhat routine victories for Nadal, losing just 15 games showed his dominance on clay was still evident as he made his way back from injury.
In the fourth round fellow countryman Roberto Bautista Agut could only grab five games off Nadal, while Pablo Carreño Busta retired in the second set 2-0 down in the quarter-final.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion faced Dominic Thiem in the semi-final. The sixth seed is one of the easier opponents Nadal has beaten on route to the French title as he came out 6-3 6-4 6-0 winner.
Swiss maestro Stanislas Wawrinka was a new kind of challenger to beat in the final. The 2015 French Open winner had beaten Andy Murray in five sets in the semi-final, but was no contest to stop Nadal as the Spaniard won 6-2 6-3 6-1.
9. 2012 v Novak Djokovic
This title victory took Nadal’s impressive feat higher up the pecking order as he passed Bjorn Borg record of six French Open’s.
Not only that, he haltered an in form Novak Djokovic, who was on the search to hold all four majors.
Nadal breezed past the opening stages of the event, beating Simone Bolelli, Denis Istomin and Eduardo Schwank without a sweat. The fourth round was even simpler, losing just two games to Juan Monaco. The Argentine clearly feeling the effects of his five set victory over Milos Raonic in the previous round.
Fellow Spaniard Nicholas Almagro put up a tougher test, but still lost in straight sets. 2013 French Open finalist David Ferrer was tried his best against his countryman, yet pulled up way short winning just five games as Nadal marched into the final.
Djokovic was looking for revenge from their 2006 and 2007 French Open meetings. However, the king of clay wasn’t willing to pass over his crown and downed the Serb in four sets.
8. 2005 v Mariano Puerta
The year Nadal’s dominance began and his unbelievable Roland Garros record started.
He was the fourth seed entering the event, so not quite the underdog, but still a surprise winner. Aged just 19 he became the youngest Grand Slam winner since Michael Chang in 1989.
He dispatched some well-known names on the Tour, Xavier Malisse, Richard Gasquet and Sébastien Grosjean, while losing just one set. In the quarter-final he faced 20th seed David Ferrer, beating him with ease, as he seems to have done each time on the French clay.
The semi-final was the real test of Nadal’s potential as Roger Federer was in the way of reaching the final. A four set victory signified to the world the reigns of tennis dominance were about to swap hands.
Mariano Puerta was his adversary in the final. Who is that you meant say. The Argentine was playing the best tennis of his career, having never got past the second round of a Grand Slam before. However, even his best was not enough. Puerta took a set off Nadal, in a tight first set tiebreak, but eventually fell at the feet of the champion 6-7 6-3 6-1 7-5.
7. 2013 v David Ferrer
By now Nadal winning the French Open was an inevitability. However, he was faced with tougher tests in the opening rounds than he usually had to deal with.
The eventual champion lost a set in both the first and second round, but still powered through past Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan respectively. 27th seed Fabio Fognini also put up a fight as Nadal came through a tight three sets, including a first set tiebreak.
The latter rounds brought Japanese rising star Kei Nishikori and Stanislas Wawrinka, however neither could even earn a set off the 10 time French Open titleholder.
A 4 hour 37 minute marathon match in the last four contested basically as the final. Five sets was the furthest Nadal has been taken at the French clay.
However, still he battled through winning 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 9-7.
David Ferrer was in his first Grand Slam final and it showed, despite his best efforts the then 30 year-old was easily beaten in three sets.
6. 2008 v Roger Federer
Nadal entered looking for his fourth French Open in a row. He achieved the feat without losing a set and become only the third person to do so in the Open Era, behind Ilie Nasture and Bjorn Borg.
The first four rounds were stress-free for the then 22 year-old, now a regular Grand Slam finalist. Qualifiers Thomaz Belluci and Nicolas Deviler were only able to hold their best for the opening exchanges, but still lost in straight sets. While Jarkko Nieminen and Fernando Verdasco were fruitless in their efforts.
Nicolas Almagro and Djokovic fell in the same boat and couldn’t halt Nadal. The final was a surprise score-line though, with Federer producing his worst ever Grand Slam final performance to lose 6-1 6-3 6-0.
5. 2006 v Roger Federer
Nadal entered as reigning champion and played like one. Unfazed by facing Roger Federer in a Grand Slam final for the first time, he battled to 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 victory.
His route to victory was much tougher one than the year before, but the end result the same. The talents of Robin Söderling, Lleyton Hewitt, Novak Djokovic and Ivan Ljubičić were unable to defeat the Spaniard.
As a side-note, the final gave Nadal his 60th win on clay in his senior career.
4. 2010 v Robin Söderling
Having fallen to Söderling in the semi-finals a year before, it was a tense atmosphere on the Philippe Chartrier that day.
However, it didn’t need to be as Nadal brushed past the Swede to extract revenge and win 6-4 6-2 6-4.
Once again, he claimed the title without dropping a set and was able to regain his spot as world number one for the first time since July 2009.
3. 2007 v Roger Federer
The 21 year-old became the first man since Borg in 1980 to win three successive titles at Roland Garros in this year.
He faced a similar foe in Roger Federer, who was looking for revenge for his 2006 defeat, yet failed to do so, losing in four sets 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4.
The route to victory was not an easy one though having to defeat big named players such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Djokovic.
Games lost by Nadal while winning French Open:
— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) June 11, 2017
2. 2014 v Novak Djokovic
Looking to truly cement his name amongst the tennis gods with a 9th French Open title he defeated Djokovic in four sets 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 and continued his supremacy on a clay court.
Thiem, Ferrer and Murray all put up a fight to stop Nadal on route to glory, but ultimately and unsurprisingly fell short.
This victory handed the Spaniard his 45th career clay title.
1. 2011 v Roger Federer
Nadal’s most impressive French Open title in 2011 was not a forgone conclusion.
His form up to the tournament had seen him lose in consecutive clay court finals to Djokovic in Madrid and Rome.
Not only that, he faced possibly he toughest draw to date. An opening round onslaught with John Isner saw Nadal lose two tie-breaks but still come out victorious.
Ljubičić, Söderling and Andy Murray subsequently failed to get a set off the then 24 year-old as he searched for his 10th Grand Slam.
All that remained was for old foe Federer once again fell at the final hurdle, losing to the left-hander 7-5 7-6 5-7 6-1.
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