Number one in our Legends of Roland Garros feature can only be Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal is a player who needs absolutely no introduction. He is, quite simply, a modern sporting icon.
At the time of writing, the Spaniard has won 17 Grand Slams, with 10 of them coming at Roland Garros, and is preparing for an 12th final.
No one has won more ATP Masters 1000 titles than the man from Mallorca.
He has won the Career Grand Slam and had done it by the age of 24 – the earliest any male player had achieved it. He has won four Davis Cups with Spain. He has won Olympic gold.
And most remarkably of all, he’s done it all while using his ‘wrong’ hand.
That’s right, the premier left-handed player of his generation, perhaps any generation, is actually right-handed.
Nadal was taught at a young age by his uncle and coach, Toni, to play tennis with his left hand, although it has always been denied that it was to give him an advantage on the tennis court.
While a brilliant player on any surface, as his Grand Slam records confirms, there is little doubt that Nadal is most at home on clay.
His brilliance on the surface, bourne of razor-sharp court smarts, sensational athelticism, and a ferocious kicking topspin forehand, has seen him dubbed ‘unbeatable’ on the surface my many a top player.
There is absolutely no doubt that the King of Clay is the greatest legend in all of Roland Garros’ illustrious history, and he’s still only adding to his legacy.
Record at Roland Garros
So far, Nadal has 11 French Open titles in his collection, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his achievements there.
He won four consecutive titles between 2005 and 2008 and then bettered it by claiming five between 2010 and 2014 – the first person, the only person, to ever do it.
In 2008, he even won the French Open without dropping a single set.
If it wasn’t enough to go an entire Grand Slam without dropping a single set, Nadal was even able to absolutely humiliate his greatest rival Roger Federer in the final.
By that stage, Federer had failed to win Roland Garros, which was becoming a frustrating blot of his copybook for him, and stood between him and the coveted Career Slam.
Furthermore, he had been beaten by Nadal inthe previous two finals. both times in four sets.
He was probably thinking 2008 was to be his year, the year he finally solved the Nadal puzzle and battled to his first French Open crown. He must have thought it was his turn and Nadal couldn’t possibly be that good again.
Nadal, though, had other ideas. He was in no mood to relinquish his stranglehold on his favourite tournament, and he was more dominant that ever absolutely obliterating Federer, the most successful male player of all time in Grand Slams, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
“He is like a beast, an animal, on the court. He’s very strong and he’s very well prepared.” – Guillermo Coria
“I’m Rafa’s number one fan.” – Roger Federer
“I think I am a complete player. I can play well on all the surfaces. For me, the clay might be easiest, but I am not a specialist on clay.” – Rafael Nadal
“If anyone says I am better than Roger, then he doesn’t know anything about tennis.” – Rafael Nadal
“It is almost impossible to beat Rafa,” said Del Potro. He’s too strong.” – Juan Martin del Potro.
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