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Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros: An ongoing fairytale

Rafael Nadal - God of the Clay
Rafael Nadal - God of the Clay
Kausthub Swaminathan

There aren't many love affairs better than the one between Rafael Nadal & Roland Garros. He has proved himself time and again as the undisputed King of Clay. With 11 titles at the 2nd Grand Slam of the tennis calendar, he has been an unbeatable force. The fact that Rafa has done it in just 14 appearances in the tournament speaks volumes about his dominance. Today we'll be taking a look at his record-breaking journey by numbers at the French Open:

2005 - Firsts at France

This was the first appearance for Nadal at Roland Garros. Appeared in all 3 other Grand Slams before (AO-2004, US & Wimbledon-2003)

• First Major as seeded player - Seeded 4th

• First Grand Slam title

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal def. Burgsmüller 6-1, 7-6(4),6-1

Round 2 - Nadal def. Malisse 6-2, 6-2, 6-4

Round 3 - Nadal def. Gasquet(30) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Grosjean(23) 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3

Q/F - Nadal def. Ferrer(20) 7-5, 6-2, 6-0

S/F - Nadal def. Federer(1) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3

Final - Nadal def. Puerta 6-7(8-6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 69.3%

Aces - 20

Service Games Won % - 83.5%

Return Points Won % - 47.1%

French Open 2005 winner Rafael Nadal
French Open 2005 winner Rafael Nadal

2006 - Not a One-Year Wonder

Missed Australian Open due to foot injury

• Seeded 2nd

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal def. Soderling 6-2, 7-5, 6-1

Round 2 - Nadal def. Kim 6-2, 6-1, 6-4

Round 3 - Nadal def. Mathieu(29) 6-7(8-6), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4

Round 4 - Nadal def. Hewitt(14) 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2

Q/F - Nadal def. Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 (retired)

S/F - Nadal def. Lujibicic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(9-7)

Final - Nadal def. Federer(2) 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6(7-4)

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 71.7%

Aces - 23

Service Games Won % - 82.6%

Return Points Won % - 45.7%


2007 - Here to Stay

Nadal proved he could put Federer's No.1 spot in jeopardy with a hattrick of French Open titles.

• Seeded 2nd

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal def. del Potro 7-5, 6-3, 6-2

Round 2 - Nadal def. Cipolla 6-2, 6-1, 6-4

Round 3 - Nadal def. Montanés 6-1, 6-3, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Hewitt(14) 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(5)

Quarterfinals - Nadal def. Moyà(23) 6-4, 6-3, 6-0

Semifinals - Nadal def. Djokovic(6) 7-5, 6-4, 6-2

Final - Nadal def. Federer(1) 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4

Tournament Statistics:

1st serve % - 72.1%

Aces - 17

Service Games Won % - 88.9%

Return Points Won % - 44.0%

2008 - Towards the Stars

Rafa beat Federer in straight sets for the first time in French Open
Rafa beat Federer in straight sets for the first time in French Open

Rafa beat Federer in straight sets for the first time in French Open

• Nadal, equalled the record for most consecutive titles at Roland Garros (Open Era)

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(2) def. Belucci 7-5, 6-3, 6-1

Round 2 - Nadal def. Devilder 6-4, 6-0, 6-1

Round 3 - Nadal def. Nieminen(26) 6-1, 6-3, 6-1

Round 4 - Nadal def. Verdasco(22) 6-1, 6-0, 6-2

Q/F - Nadal def. Almagro(19) 6-1, 6-1, 6-1

S/F - Nadal def. Djokovic(3) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3)

Final - Nadal def. Federer(1) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 70.6%

Service Games Won % - 89.4%

Return Points Won % - 54%

Return Games Won % - 61.4%


2009 - First Loss

• Nadal lost his first match ever at the French Open

• Seeded 1st at Roland Garros for the first time

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal def. Daniel 7-5, 6-4, 6-3

Round 2 - Nadal def. Gabashvili 6-1, 6-4, 6-2

Round 3 - Nadal def. Hewitt 6-1, 6-3, 6-1

Round 4 - Soderling(23) def. Nadal 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2)


2010 - Back at it again

Nadal exacted revenge on Robin Soderling

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(2) def. Mina 6-2, 6-2, 6-2

Round 2 - Nadal def. Zeballos 6-2, 6-2, 6-3

Round 3 - Nadal def. Hewitt(28) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

Round 4 - Nadal def. Belucci(24) 6-2, 7-5, 6-4

Q/F - Nadal def. Almagro(19) 7-6(2), 7-6(3), 6-4

S/F - Nadal def. Melzer(22) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(8-6)

Final - Nadal def. Soderling(5) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4

Tournament Statistics:

1st serve % - 74.6%

Aces - 19

Service Games Won % - 89%

Return Points Won % - 46.5%

2011 - Master of Clay

Nadal retained his No.1 ranking by winning the French Open
Nadal retained his No.1 ranking by winning the French Open

Nadal retained his No.1 ranking by winning the French Open

• Played his first 5-setter at French Open

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(1) def. Isner 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4

Round 2 - Nadal def. Andújar 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(4)

Round 3 - Nadal def. Veic 6-1, 6-3, 6-0

Round 4 - Nadal def. Ljubicic 7-5, 6-3, 6-3

Q/F - Nadal def. Soderling(5) 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(3)

S/F - Nadal def. Murray(4) 6-4, 7-5, 6-4

Final - Nadal def. Federer(3) 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-1

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 71.9%

Aces - 27

Service Games Won % - 83.5%

Return Points Won % - 45.3%


2012 - At the Top

Nadal broke Bjorn Borg's record for Most French Open titles in Open Era, getting his 7th title

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal def. Bolleli 6-2, 6-2, 6-1

Round 2 - Nadal def. Istomin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0

Round 3 - Nadal def. Schwank 6-1, 6-3, 6-4

Round 4 - Nadal def. Mónaco(13) 6-2, 6-0, 6-0

Q/F - Nadal def. Almagro(12) 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3

S/F - Nadal def. Ferrer(6) 6-2, 6-2, 6-1

Final - Nadal def. Djokovic(1) 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 62.9%

Aces - 19

Service Games Won % - 91.2%

Return Games Won % - 50.5%


2013 - Dominant Demon Rafa

• Nadal took a long break from 2nd half of 2012 to February 2013 due to knee injury

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(3) def. Brands 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-3

Round 2 - Nadal def. Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3

Round 3 - Nadal def. Fognini(27) 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4

Round 4 - Nadal def. Nishikori(13) 6-4, 6-1, 6-3

Q/F - Nadal def. Wawrinka(9) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1

S/F - Nadal def. Djokovic(1) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7

Final - Nadal def. Ferrer(4) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 72%

Aces - 29

Service Games Won % - 85.8%

Return Points Won % - 44.3%


2014 - All-Time Great

Nadal recorded the most consecutive French Open titles(5)

• First player to get 9 titles in a single Grand Slam

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(1) def. Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0

Round 2 - Nadal def. Thiem 6-2, 6-2, 6-3

Round 3 - Nadal def. L.Mayer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Lajovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1

Q/F - Nadal def. Ferrer(5) 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1

S/F - Nadal def. Murray(7) 6-3, 6-2, 6-1

Final - Nadal def. Djokovic(2) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 67.3%

Service Games Won % - 88.4%

Return Points Won % - 51.8%

2015 - Start of a Lean Period

Nadal bids adieu to the crowd after his quarter-final loss in 2015
Nadal bids adieu to the crowd after his quarter-final loss in 2015

Nadal didn't win a single Grand Slam in 2015

• Suffered only his 2nd loss at the French Open

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(6) def. Halys 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

Round 2 - Nadal def. Almagro 6-4, 6-3, 6-1

Round 3 - Nadal def. Kuznetzov 6-1, 6-3, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Sock 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2

Q/F - Djokovic(1) def. Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1

2016 - Injury Troubles

Nadal withdrew from the 3rd round due to a wrist injury, didn't play Wimbledon, ended season early.


2017 - Comeback For The Ages

• Nadal Returned from injury to finish runner-up in Australia before the Roland Garros

• Won without dropping a set for the 3rd time, tying for the record with Björn Borg

• Reached Double figures in French Open Titles

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(4) def. 6-1, 6-4, 6-1

Round 2 - Nadal def. Basilashvili 6-0, 6-1, 6-0

Round 3 - Nadal def. Bautista Agut(17) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Carreño Busta(20) 6-2, 2-0(retired)

Q/F - Nadal def. Theim(6) 6-3, 6-4, 6-0

S/F - Nadal def.

Final - Nadal def. Wawrinka(3) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1

Tournament Statistics:

1st serve % - 63.9%

Aces - 18

Service Games Won % - 91.9%

Return Games Won % - 60.8%


2018 - The Zeus of French Open

• Equalled Margaret Court for most titles by male/female in a single major(11), First to do it in Open Era

Matches:

Round 1 - Nadal(1) def. Bolleli 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(11-9)

Round 2 - Nadal def. Pella 6-2, 6-1, 6-1

Round 3 - Nadal def. Gasquet(27) 6-3, 6-3, 6-2

Round 4 - Nadal def. Marterer - 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4)

Q/F - Nadal def. Schwartzman(11) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

S/F - Nadal def. del Potro(5) - 6-4, 6-1, 6-2

Final - Nadal def. Thiem(7) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2

Tournament Statistics:

1st Serve % - 61.1%

Aces - 14

Service Games Won % - 89%

Return Points Won % - 47.7%

2018 French Open - A title for the Ages!
2018 French Open - A title for the Ages!

Mini Analysis:

If you look at Nadal's 1st serve percentage it is mostly recorded at around 70% and that means he had that more of a chance to close out points on serve. What makes Rafa's last 3 victories at Roland Garros astounding, especially his title-winning effort in 2018, is the fact that the percentage of 1st serves reduces to early to mid-60s. That means he has won more points on the 2nd serve and has taken a toll on his opponents' service.

There is also no better proof of the Spaniard's ability to get balls back in with brutality than this. Will he be able to brush off the injury in the last stretch of 2018 and win more titles? It's a great incentive to watch the next season.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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