When it comes to the French Open, Rafael Nadal stands alone. The Spaniard has more than earned his nickname ‘The King of Clay’, having won the Paris Grand Slam on 12 separate occasions, a remarkable achievement. No tennis player in history has won a single Grand Slam more times than Nadal has won Roland Garros, proof of his dominance of the event over the last 15 years or so. As the 2020 edition continues, Nadal is once again the favourite in the French Open betting odds.
In that time, the Spaniard has won some cracking matches to take the crown. The final of a Grand Slam is always a challenging occasion, no matter who the opponent is. Any tennis player, whether they’re a proven champion or a first-time Grand Slam finalist, will feel the butterflies in their stomach ahead of the final of one of the big four tournaments, but Nadal has proven on numerous occasions that he can handle that pressure.
Nadal’s success at the French Open deserves analysis, so we’ve had a look at what we feel are his five best and most significant French Open final victories.
2005 vs Mariano Puerta
Nadal’s first victory at the French Open came in 2005 against Argentine player Mariano Puerta. The Spaniard had only just turned 19 when he took to the court for the final, having defeated the great Roger Federer in the semi-finals. Nadal had already begun to show his supreme talents on clay courts, having entered that year’s French Open on a 17-match unbeaten streak on clay.
In the end, Nadal showed great resolve to win his maiden Grand Slam. Despite losing the first set on a tiebreak, he then reeled off three sets in a row to claim the first French Open title of many.
2008 vs Roger Federer
The 2008 final against Roger Federer was perhaps not notable for its drama, but rather for the ease in which Nadal beat the Swiss competitor, and the affect that victory had on the Wimbledon Championships which were to follow. Nadal was outstanding on the day, asserting his dominance throughout to win easily, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
It was the third time in a row that Nadal had defeated Federer in the French Open final, and the nature of the victory clearly gave the Spaniard an extra boost of confidence heading into Wimbledon, where he beat Federer again, this time in a classic five-set thriller to win his first Wimbledon title.
2012 vs Novak Djokovic
Around the time of the 2012 French Open final, Novak Djokovic was without question the best player in the world, and was bidding to become just the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once. But Nadal had other ideas, and produced a fine display in a rain-affected final, which carried over into the Monday, to win his seventh French Open title.
2014 vs Novak Djokovic
The Spaniard and the Serb came face to face once more in 2014, and again it was Nadal who came out on top, despite Djokovic winning the opening set. It was another chance missed for Djokovic to complete his career Grand Slam, as Nadal found his form to win three sets on the spin and win the French Open for a remarkable fifth successive year.
2017 vs Stan Wawrinka
However, Nadal would not win the French Open again until three years later, when he defeated Stan Wawrinka in straight sets to complete an emotional return to form. Nadal had struggled with injuries, fitness, and form in the years in between his 2014 and 2017 French Open victories, and the win over Wawrinka at Roland Garros was proof that he was back to his best. He has won the Paris Grand Slam every year since.