'I wanted Djokovic to lose' - Toni recalls Rafael Nadal's 2011 Roland Garros win

  • Toni Nadal reminisced about Rafael Nadal's victorious campaign at 2011 Roland Garros with fondness.
  • He mentioned Novak Djokovic as a potent threat to Nadal's title hopes at that tournament.
Modified 23 May 2020, 06:01 IST

In 2011, Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer for the third time in a Roland Garros final.
In 2011, Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer for the third time in a Roland Garros final.

During an exclusive chat with Eurosport as part of the Players' Cut series, Rafael Nadal's uncle and long-time coach Toni Nadal spoke at length about his nephew's win in the 2011 Roland Garros final.

In 2011, the then five-time champion Rafael Nadal met his arch-rival Roger Federer for the third time in a Roland Garros final. However, this was only after Federer had ended Novak Djokovic's stunning 41-0 start to the year by beating the Serb in a four-set semifinal.

Toni Nadal reminisced about Rafael Nadal's victorious 2011 Roland Garros campaign fondly. He said that in the build-up to the tournament, he perceived Novak Djokovic to be the best player on tour.

The then 23-year-old Serb beat Rafael Nadal in the finals of the Indian Wells and Miami Masters before the clay season. Wins in the title matches at Madrid and Rome soon followed, which were Djokovic's first two wins over the Spaniard on clay.

Djokovic arrived at Roland Garros without a loss in 37 matches that year, and looked on course to burst through Rafael Nadal's claycourt bastion.

"Yes, what I wanted when I came to Roland Garros, was that Djokovic loses," Toni said. "It’s the only thing I wanted. When we played in Rome, I had seen in that moment (that) Djokovic was playing better than Rafael. And when we arrived in Roland Garros, we knew that Djokovic was the best."

Toni Nadal was grateful that Roger Federer beat Djokovic in the semifinals and prevented the Serb from setting up a Roland Garros title showdown with Rafael Nadal.

"Then for us, it was good that Federer won his semifinal against Djokovic, it was a wonderful match and more so because Federer won. And then, (if) I remember (correctly) I think it was the first defeat of Djokovic that year."

Uncle Toni talks about Rafael Nadal's form at 2011 Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal at 2011 Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal at 2011 Roland Garros

In his first match of the tournament, Rafael Nadal fell behind two sets to one against American John Isner. That marked the first time the defending champion had lost a set in the opening round at the claycourt Major.

Stretched to five sets for the first time on the Parisian clay, Rafael Nadal regrouped to take a narrow win - after which he began to grow in confidence. The left-hander would not drop another set till the final.

Rafael Nadal beat his 2009 conqueror Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals and fourth seed Andy Murray in the semis to reach his sixth title match in seven appearances at Roland Garros.

Toni Nadal said that usually Rafael Nadal arrives at Roland Garros with 'low' confidence that increases as he successfully negotiates the various rounds in the tournament..

"Many times, when we arrived at Roland Garros in Paris, he started with little confidence," Toni said. "Sometimes I said 'Rafael, what happens? Do you believe that you can lose against this player? You are so good, it is not too difficult in the first round or the second round, no?'"

Toni Nadal further stated that in the second week, Rafael Nadal's form tends to gets better. And when he arrives in the final, his confidence and form reach a crescendo.

"But then, after the first week, normally, he starts to play better and better and normally when he arrives in the final, he arrives with confidence, and then the Center Court for him is so good. It is a big court. He can move, and he has the feeling that it is very difficult to make points against him. Then, everything changes."

How did the 2011 Roland Garros final unfold?

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2011 Roland Garros post-match presentation
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2011 Roland Garros post-match presentation

In his fifth meeting with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, and the third time in the final of the tournament, it was Roger Federer who made the better start.

The 2009 Roland Garros champion drew first blood. With Rafael Nadal serving at 3-5, break point down, a drop shot from Federer narrowly fell off target. The Spaniard survived and reeled off seven successive games to steal the first set from Federer's grasp and take a 2-0 lead in the second.

The Spaniard failed to serve out a two-set lead though, and a tiebreak ensued. Nadal reasserted his supremacy there, and finally did take a two-set lead.

The Spaniard broke for 4-2 in the third but this time it was Federer who 'got his socks dirty'. The Swiss reeled off five of the next six games to force a fourth set out of seemingly nowhere.

Federer went ahead 0-40 on Rafael Nadal's serve in the opening game of the fourth but couldn't capitalize on his opportunities. The right-hander lost five games in a row after that and hit long on the final point to bring an enthralling contest to a rather insipid end.

Federer acknowledged that he had his opportunities at the start of the fourth set and felt he could have made a match of it in the fifth, but gave credit to his opponent for the win.

"I thought he was getting tired in the third and fourth sets but unfortunately I couldn't take advantage of it," Federer said. "At 0-0 in the fourth set you think we have a match again. We know what can happen in tennis. In the fifth set I would have felt very, very strong. But Rafa played well and he deserved to win today."

With the win, Rafael Nadal emulated Bjorn Borg as the only men to lift six Roland Garros men's singles titles.

Published 23 May 2020, 06:01 IST
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