Nadal's 5 most epic rivalries in the 2010s

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has been one of standout performers of the decade. One of 3 players to win over 500 match wins during the decade that was 2010 to 2019, the others being Novak Djokovic (630) and Roger Federer (559), Nadal crossed several new milestones during this period.

The Spaniard's 13 Grand Slam titles during the decade was only 2 short of Djokovic (15) but 8 clear of the next best tally of Federer (5). Nadal captured an unprecedented trio of La Decimas at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Roland Garros in 2017, becoming the first player to win a clay court tournament on 10 or more occasions. The next year, Nadal achieved the undecima before winning his 12th Roland Garros title in 2019 after being thwarted by the respective eventual winners in the semifinals at Monte Carlo (Fabio Fognini) and Barcelona (Dominic Thiem).

He became the youngest- fourth overall- player to complete the career Grand Slam at the 2010 US Open, after capturing the Monte Carlo-Madrid-Rome-Roland Garros quadruple earlier in the season. In the process, Nadal became the first player to win all 3 clay court Masters 1000 tournaments in the same season.

In 2014, Nadal extended his record of consecutive major winning seasons to 14 before going Slam-less in a season for the first time since 2004. Fast forward five seasons, Nadal reached the 2019 US Open final to become the first player after Federer to reach 5 or more finals at all the 4 majors. In the final, Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev to move to within 1 Slam of Federer's record tally of 20.

You may also like: 2019 ended 20-19 atop the Grand Slam leaderboard for Federer and Nadal. Would 2020 end 20-20?

The only player after Rod Laver to win 3 consecutive major titles in a season, Nadal played a total of 181 opponents during the 2010s, winning against all but Dustin Brown (0/2). Against 133 different opponents led by Richard Gasquet and Diegor Schwartman (both 9 apiece), Nadal did not lose a match. On that note, let us find out the Spaniard's 5-most prolific rivalries during the 2010s decade, in terms of matches played.

#5: Fabio Fognini: 16 matches

Fabio Fognini
Fabio Fognini

Nadal played all 16 of his matches with Fognini during the 2010s decade, winning 12 of those encounters.

However, one of the Spaniard's 4 losses against the unpredictable Italian came in the third round at the 2015 US Open where Nadal squandered a 2-set lead to lose a Grand Slam match for the first time in his career. More recently, the 11-time Monte Carlo champion lost to Fognini in straight sets in the 2019 semifinals.

Fognini's 2 other wins over Nadal both came in 2015 - Rio de Janeiro semifinals and Barcelona third round.

#4: Stanislas Wawrinka: 18 matches

Wawrinka had his first win over Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final
Wawrinka had his first win over Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final

In 18 matches with Stanislas Wawrinka during the 2010s decade, Nadal lost just 3, winning 15.

But the first of those losses arrived in the final of the 2014 Australian Open where Nadal lost to Wawrinka for the first time in 13 matches. Wawrinka followed up that Melbourne win with another defeat of the Spaniard in the Rome quarterfinals later that season and also beat Nadal in the 2015 Paris-Bercy quarterfinals.

Nadal has since won the pair's next 6 matches which includes Wawrinka's only defeat in a Grand Slam final at 2017 Roland Garros.

#3: Roger Federer: 20 matches

Nadal lost to Federer in the 2017 Australian Open final
Nadal lost to Federer in the 2017 Australian Open final

Nadal just about hung on to a winning record in 20 meetings with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the 2010s decade, winning 11 of those clashes.

In the intervening period, Nadal lost 5 matches in a row to Federer for the very first time, a run which included losses in the finals at 2015 Basel, 2017 Australian Open, 2017 Miami, and 2017 Shanghai, and a fourth round reverse at 2017 Indian Wells. The loss in Melbourne from a break up in the fifth set marked Nadal's first loss at a Grand Slam to Federer since losing in the 2007 Wimbledon final.

In the pair's Roland Garros meeting in 8 years since Nadal's 4-set win in the 2011 final, Nadal beat the 4-time Roland Garros semifinalist in straight sets at the 2019 edition of the competition. Weeks later, in the pair's first Wimbledon meeting since Nadal's win in an epic 2008 final, Federer emerged triumphant in straight sets in the 2019 Wimbledon semis en route to reaching his 12th final at the grasscourt major.

During the decade, Nadal went 3-5 against Federer in all finals, winning at 2010 Madrid, 2011 Roland Garros and 2013 Rome (all on clay), while losing in the 2015 Basel and ATP Finals and thrice in 2017 - Australian Open, Miami, and Shanghai. After winning in the 2014 Australian Open semis, Nadal has gone 0/7 against the Swiss maestro in all clashes outside of clay.

#2: David Ferrer: 21 matches

Nadal beat Ferrer in the 2013 Roland Garros finalNadal lost to Djokovic in the 2019 Australian Open final
Nadal beat Ferrer in the 2013 Roland Garros finalNadal lost to Djokovic in the 2019 Australian Open final

In the first all-Spanish Grand Slam final in more than a decade, Nadal beat compatriot and good friend David Ferrer in straight sets in the 2013 Roland Garros final to win a record-extending 8th title at the tournament.

The win was one of Nadal's 18 victories over Ferrer during the 2010s, while losing only thrice against the fellow Spaniard. Ferrer's 3 wins over Nadal, all in straight sets, came in the 2011 Australian Open quarterfinals, 2013 Paris-Bercy semifinals, and 2014 Monte Carlo quarterfinals.

The 2013 Roland Garros triumph was the latest of Nadal's 6 wins in as many meetings with Ferrer in tournament finals.

#1: Novak Djokovic: 33 matches

Nadal lost to Djokovic in the 2019 Australian Open final

Nadal's 33 matches with Djokovic was the most matches played by the Spaniard against any player during the decade that was 2010 to 2019. 22 of these meetings happened in tournament finals.

21 of Nadal's 106 defeats during the decade came at the hands of the Serb, most recently in the 2019 Australian Open final where Nadal suffered his first straight-set defeat in a Slam final. It was Nadal's 15th defeat to Djokovic in 22 tournament finals during the decade.

Nadal twice lost 7 consecutive matches against the Serb in the decade. The first of these instances came in 2011-12 when the Spaniard lost seven consecutive finals to Djokovic from 2011 Indian Wells to 2012 Australian Open. During the second of those instances, Nadal fell behind in his head-to-head with Djokovic for the very first time.

In the pair's Open-Era record 50th meeting, Nadal beat Djokovic in the 2017 Madrid semifinals. However, outside of clay, following a four-set win in the 2013 US Open final, Nadal has not beaten the Serb in 9 meetings. If Nadal's 2013 Coupe Rogers semifinal win is also included, the Spaniard has lost 14 of the pair's last 16 non-clay meetings. Djokovic has clearly had the upper hand on the Spanish maestro in the decade gone by.

You may also like: 3 milestones awaiting Nadal in 2020.

Edited by S Chowdhury


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