5 players with best 1R record at French Open, ft. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic (left) and Rafael Nadal have never lost in the first round at Roland Garros.
Novak Djokovic (left) and Rafael Nadal have never lost in the first round at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic opened their respective French Open 2022 campaigns with facile straight-set wins on Monday.

While Nadal dropped six games against Australia's Jordan Thompson in his tournament opener, Djokovic was even more ruthless, conceding just four games against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka.

In the process, the legendary duo extended their streak of never losing in the first round at Roland Garros since their tournament debut in 2005.

On that note, here's a look at five male players with the best record in Roland Garros first-round matches in the Open Era (minimum 11 matches):

#5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1996 French Open winner) - 11-0

Yevgeny Kafelnikov won the tournament in 1996
Yevgeny Kafelnikov won the tournament in 1996

In 12 visits to Roland Garros, Yevgeny Kafelnikov never lost in the first round, enjoying his finest campaign in 1996, four years after his tournament debut.

He made history at the tournament that year, becoming the first Russian player to win a Grand Slam singles title. Kafelnikov dropped only one set en route to the title, beating Pete Sampras in the semifinals and Michael Stich in the final.

#OnThisDay in 1996 and Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov wins the @rolandgarros title with a win over #MichaelStich in the final #tennis #tennispictures #RolandGarros #Kafelnikov…

He also made the semifinals in 1995, losing to Thomas Muster. The Russian made three quarterfinals at the tournament - 1997, 2000, 2001 - but lost to eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten on each occasion.

In his last French Open match in 2003, Kafelnikov lost to Italy's Flavio Saretta in the second round in five sets.

Honourable Mention: Balazs Taroczy of Hungary also went 11-0 in Roland Garros first-round matches.

#4 Andres Gomez (1990 French Open winner) - 12-0

Andres Gomez won the tournament in 1990
Andres Gomez won the tournament in 1990

Making his tournament debut in 1980, Andres Gomez needed 10 years to win his lone Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

After making three quarterfinals - 1984, 1986, 1987 - and losing to Ivan Lendl on each occasion, Gomez finally made his Roland Garros breakthrough in 1990. The Spaniard was only extended to four sets twice during the fortnight, against Alexander Volkov in the third round and Andre Agassi in the final.

Hoy debía iniciar @rolandgarros pero aún recuerdo cómo terminó hace 30 años! Les iré contando como fueron esos 15 días partido a partidos y día a día en 1990. Gracias @ESPNtenis…

Gomez became the third left-hander to win the French Open, following Rod Laver (1969) and Guillermo Vilas (1976). He wouldn't be the last.

#3 Brian Gottfried (1977 French Open finalist) - 13-0

Brian Gottfried (left)
Brian Gottfried (left)

Brian Gottfried is the only player on this list who never won the French Open. However, in 13 visits to the claycourt Major between 1972 and 1984, he never stumbled in the opening round.

In his only foray beyond the round of 16 in 1977, the then World No. 5 made it all the way to the final. However, the American received a hiding from Guillermo Vilas, winning only three games in the entire match and being the recipient of two bagels. This remains the shortest Roland Garros final in history.

Un extrait de la plus expéditive des finales hommes de Roland-Garros 🔥 1977 : the shortest RG men's singles final ever! @GuilleVilasOK

Earlier, Gottfried had overcome a two-set deficit to beat former winner Ilie Nastase in the quarterfinals.

Gottfried made his last French Open appearance in 1984, where he lost to compatriot Jimmy Arias in five sets in the fourth round.

#T1 Novak Djokovic (two-time French Open winner) - 18-0

Novak Djokovic at 2022 Roland Garros- Day Two
Novak Djokovic at 2022 Roland Garros- Day Two

Novak Djokovic made a blazing start to his Roland Garros career, dropping only three games against Robby Ginepri on his tournament debut in 2005.

With his win over Nishioka on Sunday, Djokovic ensured he crossed the first-round hurdle at Roland Garros for the 18th time in as many attempts. The World No. 1 has only dropped two sets in the first round at the French Open, in 2008 against Denis Gremelmayr and 2010 against Evgeny Korolev.

Djokovic created history at Roland Garros last year. He became the first player to beat Nadal twice in the tournament before beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to become the first male player in the Open Era to win the double career Grand Slam.

A year later, he is seeking to create more history. He is aiming to become the first player to win a triple career Grand Slam and draw level with Nadal (21) atop the all-time Grand Slam title leaderboard.

#1 Rafael Nadal (13-time French Open winner) - 18-0

Rafael Nadal at 2022 Roland Garros - Day Two
Rafael Nadal at 2022 Roland Garros - Day Two

Rafael Nadal is the most successful player - male or female - to grace Roland Garros.

The 35-year-old has won a record 13 titles in Paris. On Monday, he beat Thompson to extend his perfect streak in first-round matches at Roland Garros to 18-0. In fact, Nadal has never lost in the tournament in the second round, third round or the final.

Like Djokovic, Nadal has only dropped sets in the first round of the French Open on two occasions. In 2011, the Spaniard was taken to five sets by John Isner, while two years later, Daniel Brands took a set off Nadal.

📊 Tenistas con 100% de efectividad en primera ronda de Roland Garros (Open Era/Men’s Singles):🇪🇸 RAFA NADAL | 18-0🇷🇸 NOVAK DJOKOVIC | 18-0🇺🇸 Brian Gottfried | 13-0🇪🇨 Andrés Gómez | 12-0🇭🇺 Balazs Taroczy | 11-0🇷🇺 Yevgeny Kafelnikov | 11-0📝 Mínimo: 11 partidos

With his win over Thompson on Sunday, Nadal overtook Roger Federer (105) for the most match wins at a single Major. He's now one victory away from scaling another milestone - 300 Grand Slam match wins.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

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Edited by Keshav Gopalan
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