2011 French Open 1st Round
Rafa had a career best year in 2010. He had completed the Career Grand Slam and was coming to Roland Garros as the World’s Number 1 player. The last time Nadal took French Open trophy was without dropping a set.
In 2011 he faced the America’s John Isner in a tricky 1st round contest. Isner is known as one of game’s best all time servers. He is capable of throwing a barrage of aces at the opponent even on clay.
The 1st set ran through a normal order as Nadal took it 6-4. But the next two sets began to rock the tennis world. Isner served an array of aces and held his serve each time.
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A visibly agitated Nadal was unable to break him. Both sets went to the tie-breakers and it was the American who came on top. The eyes of the world media were glued on a bigger upset than even 2009.
However, not many tennis players can surpass Rafa in stoic determination. The Spaniard rallied himself to take the last two sets 6-2 and 6-4. A visibly relieved Nadal could not control his emotions on the Court.
On the other hand Isner was left shell shocked having come so close to an upset and then faltering to cross the line.
2013 French Open Semifinals
Many tennis experts have called this as the best French Open match ever played. Such was the level of play for more than four and a half hours that this contest could easily be regarded as one of the top 10 all time matches.
Rafa and Novak met in a much anticipated semifinal both looking in their best form. The clash was expected to be a thriller from the start.
The then World Number 3 and World Number 1 traded the 1st two sets. Nadal upped his game in the 3rd set and took it 6-1. A repeat of history looked appearing at Philippe Chatrier.
When Nadal went a break up in the 4th set, it appeared that the contest was nearing an end.
Djokovic however had other ideas. He immediately broke back and took the set to a tie-breaker. Novak displayed supreme character and confidence and raised his game to win the tie-breaker and thus take the match in 5th set.
If the 1st four sets were classics, the 5th one simply was an epic. Djokovic went a break up in the mid of the decider and was looking to dethrone the King. The Champion however fought with equal vigor and broke back.
Both traded heavy blows until Nadal was able to break the Djokovic serve in the 16th game of the 5th set and finally take the set 9-7. The French crowd had witnessed a classic and appeared visibly stunned.
Nadal may have been the victor but an emotional Djokovic was given a deserved standoff. Even Rafa’s coach Toni Nadal stood up to salute the courage and character of the World Number 1.