There are Grand Slam Champions and then there is Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard who has lifted benchmarks of a clay game to new dazzling heights goes for his 12th French Open title in 2019. This is a feat unmatched in the Open Era.
Statistically if Nadal would have played only the French Open and no other Slam, he still would have been 5th on the list of All Time Grand Slam Winners. As Rafa aim for his 12th trophy in Paris, we take a look at his One and a Half Decade of Dominance.
2005-08: The King Announces Himself
In 2005, Rafa then just a teenager had advanced to Number 4 in the ATP rankings. He was one of the players to watch for at Paris owing to his performances in Monte Carlo and other Masters tournaments.
In 2006 the Nadal dominance reached another level. He lifted the brushing aside players like Lleyton Hewitt and Novak Djokovic. A final against Federer saw once again Nadal breaking Swiss dream by crushing the World Number 1 in 4 sets.
Nadal also defeated Novak Djokovic in the Semis. In the Finals, he was again able to outdo Federer in 4 sets and triumph in his 3rd successive Roland Garros Championship.
The year 2008 saw Nadal’s dominance reach the peak. He won the title this time without losing a single set. In the Semis Rafa defeated World Number 3 Novak Djokovic and set up the 4th consecutive French final with Federer. This time however Nadal handed Federer one of his worst defeats.
This Spaniard dominated his Swiss rival losing just 4 games in the whole match. Nadal handed the World Number 1 a bagel in the 3rd set. The year 2008 also saw Nadal end Federer’s hold on Wimbledon and the World Number 1 rankings.
2010-14: The Supremacy Continues
The year 2009 saw Nadal being defeated 1st time in Roland Garros by a certain Robin Soderling. That year Roger Federer would finally go on to win the French Open and complete his Career Grand Slam.
Nadal was injured for much of 2009 and could not even compete to defend his Wimbledon title. The Spaniard would however come back even stronger in 2010.
Nadal came to Roland Garros in 2010 having experienced his 1st defeat there a year ago. Doubts were being raised on his form and fitness.
The Spaniard however answered them in style winning the Championship without the loss of a set. That year Rafa would defeat Robin Soderling, his 2009 conqueror in 3 straight sets.
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The year 2010 was special for Nadal’s Career as he won Wimbledon again completing the Channel Slam for the 2nd time. Nadal also won the US Open that year completing the Career Slam at the age of just 24.
Nadal’s dominance continued in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 as he went on to win 5 successive Roland Garros titles and 9 in total. Novak Djokovic was at the receiving end of Nadal’s onslaught in 2012 and 2014 finals.
However in 2011 first round and 2013 semifinal Rafa was taken to 5 set matches by John Isner and Novak Djokovic respectively. The 2013 semifinal is regarded by many as the best French Open match ever played.
2017-18: The Return Of The King
In 2015 and 2016 Rafa was denied his 10th Roland Garros Championship by Novak Djokovic and wrist injury. He would have a 3 year barren run for a Grand Slam but as 2017 arrived Nadal was back to form and fitness.
In 2017 Nadal had an exceptional clay season and came to Roland Garros as an outright favorite. From the 1st match itself he was like a caged lion in his quest to La Decima.
Without dropping a set 3rd time in the whole tournament Nadal captured his 10th Roland Garros title. He had now re-written tennis history books by becoming the 1st player in the Open Era to win 10 titles at a single slam.
Nadal was in no mood to stop at 10 French Open. In 2011 at the cost of just 1 set he again won the French Open. His dominance throughout the tournament was reminiscent of his career long dominance on clay.
This year as Nadal goes for his 12th trophy in Paris he is already been declared as the Greatest Clay Court Player of all time. His has twice the number of French Opens than the 2nd best Roland Garros player Bjorn Borg.