The French Open is underway in Paris. New, and familiar faces, descend upon Roland Garros to compete for the title. However, no name is more associated with the clay-court tournament than Rafael Nadal.
Nicknamed the “King of Clay,” Nadal has won at Roland Garros 13 times, the most singles titles by any player, resulting in a French Open record of 105 wins and three losses.
Following is a breakdown of the title wins in Nadal’s French Open supremacy.
Nadal’s reign at Roland Garros began in 2005, beginning the tournament just shy of his 19th birthday. Entering the year ranked 51, Nadal won five of his seven clay events to climb to No. 5 by the French Open. In Paris, he made it through the quarterfinals with relative ease before seeing Roger Federer in the semis. The two played on Nadal’s 19th birthday, going back and forth until Nadal finally came out on top. In the final, he clashed with Mariano Puerta, falling in the first set in a tiebreaker before taking the next three sets, becoming the second man to win the French Open in their debut.
Nadal came back to the French Open ready to defend his title, having gone on a 53-match unbeaten streak on clay. The 2005 win was not only the beginning of a four-championship win streak at Roland Garros, but it also set up the rivalry between Federer and the Spaniard. After Nadal made his way through the semifinals, he met Federer in the finals. With the win, Federer would have held all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously, however, Nadal had other plans. After Federer took the first set rather easily, Nadal bounced back to win the next two before the fourth went to a tiebreaker, with Nadal clinching it for the win.
The 2007 Roland Garros Tournament offered a rematch between the top two players. Looking to secure his third straight French Open, Nadal moved through the tournament rather quickly, winning in straight sets through the semifinal, including downing Novak Djokovic, who had previously beaten Nadal in the Miami Open. In the finals, Nadal saw Federer once again, taking the first set before dropping in the second. With wins in the final two sets, Nadal earned his third French Open in a row, becoming the first to do so since 1981.
Nadal won his fourth straight French Open title in 2008, matching Bjorn Borg as the only two to win four in a row. Nadal came into the Open ranked No. 2. The first five matches of Roland Garros passed rather quickly for Nadal, as he won each in straight sets before meeting Djokovic in the semis. Though the Serbian proved to be tougher, Nadal won that in three as well to set up another finals rematch with Federer. That match went fairly fast as well, as Nadal took the win in three sets in an hour and 48 minutes, marking the shortest men’s final in terms of games since 1977.
With Federer’s Roland Garros moment finally coming in 2009, he ended Nadal’s run. However, the Spaniard got back on track the next year. After winning his first three matches in straight sets, Nadal earned his 200th victory on clay by winning the fourth round in three as well. Nadal received pushback in the quarterfinals, with two sets going to a tiebreaker before he won in three. The semifinals proved to be easier, with Nadal winning in straight sets to set up a rematch with Robin Soderling, who beat Nadal in the fourth round the year prior. Nadal avenged that loss in the finals, winning in straight sets in two hours and 18 minutes, marking his second Roland Garros win without dropping a set.
Nadal’s 2010 win in Paris began a new streak of wins. With the Spaniard winning in 2011 for his sixth French Open win, he became the first man since Borg to win six Roland Garros titles. Unlike his previous tournaments, Nadal had trouble in the first round, having to go to five sets. Nadal then went to a tiebreaker in round two before winning his next three matches in straight sets to bring him to Andy Murray in the semifinals, which saw Nadal win in three. For the fourth time in the French Open, Federer and Nadal were set to duel in the finals. Nadal took set one as well as the second one in a tiebreaker before Federer came back to win the third. However, that’s where it ended for Federer, as Nadal took the fourth set fairly quickly to win his sixth French Open.
After a series of wins capped with a title at the Italian Open, Nadal came into the 2012 French Open ranked as a No. 2 and looking to grab his third in a row once again. Rafa breezed straight through to the finals, winning all his matches in straight sets, with only one in the quarterfinals going to a tiebreaker, before he met a familiar foe in the finals. Novak Djokovic and Nadal had already competed in the finals of a major three times in a row before the French Open, with Djokovic taking all three, and now they were slated for the fourth in a row. Nadal won the first two sets before dropping the third. Two rain delays in the final meant the remainder of the fourth set had to be played the next day, where Nadal won his seventh Roland Garros to surpass Borg for most French Open titles.
Nadal matched his previous streak of four in a row when he won in 2013, his eighth tournament title. Although this win would make Nadal the first man to win the same major eight times, it was also one of his toughest, as he dropped four sets on his way to victory. Nadal started out rough in the first two rounds, having to go to four sets in both rounds to advance. Things got a little easier in the next three rounds, as he won in straight sets to move into the semifinal, however Djokovic did not go down easy. The two went to five sets in the semis, with the fourth set going to a tiebreaker before Nadal won a long fifth set. He met David Ferrer in the final, winning in straight sets to secure the title.
Extending his streak, Nadal’s win in 2014 ran his reign at the French Open to five straight, the first man to do so at the tournament. Nadal won only two clay court titles coming into the French Open that season, however he was ranked No. 1 heading into the tournament looking to defend his title. He skated past the first four rounds in straight sets before meeting Ferrer in the quarters, where Nadal dropped set one. Bouncing back, Nadal all but blew by Ferrer in the final three sets to meet Murray in the semifinals, winning in straight sets. With Nadal in the final, a familiar draw was set, with Djokovic the opponent for the second time in three years. Djokovic won the first set, however that was all he got, as Nadal won the next three sets to win the French Open for the ninth time in 10 years.
Following the record-setting ninth win, it was a couple years before Nadal got back to the finals, as he dropped to Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2015 and had a third-round exit in 2016 due to a wrist injury. However, by 2017, he was back on top, entering Roland Garros ranked No. 4 with a few clay titles under his belt as well. Nadal cruised to victory in the first four rounds and was up in the quarterfinals as well before his opponent retired because of injury. While many thought Nadal would see Djokovic in the semifinal, he instead dueled Dominic Thiem. Nadal won in straight sets, though it required some skilled serves to get there. Rafa finished off the tournament defeating Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets, marking his third French Open title without dropping a set.
The 2017 tournament marked the beginning of a new streak for Nadal at the French Open, as he went on to win three more in a row. Ranked No. 1 once more, Nadal appeared to struggle in the first round, almost dropping the first set. He recovered to win the first two before taking the third set to a tiebreaker and eventually winning to move on. Things got easier for Nadal, as he won the next three rounds in straight sets and also earned his 900th career match win on the way. In the quarterfinal, however, Nadal dropped the first set before bouncing back to win the next three and coasting through the semifinals in three straight. The win led him to meet Thiem in the finals, their third meeting in Paris, where Nadal once again won in three straight for his 11th win at Roland Garros.
With his 12th win at the French Open in 2019, Nadal set the record previously held by Margaret Court for number of wins at a single major. Coming into Paris, Nadal struggled to find wins on clay, however that ended in the Italian Open when he took his first title of the lead-up tournaments, entering Roland Garros ranked No. 2. Nadal sailed through the first two rounds and made it past the third as well after dropping a set. The next two rounds showed to be just a stop on the way to the semifinals. Nadal won in straight sets to meet Federer, where Nadal won in three to see Thiem once again in the finals. There, Thiem picked up a win in the second set, however that was it, as Rafa won the final two to claim title number 12.
Rafael Nadal’s most recent French Open win came two years ago, marking his 13th French Open win and tying Federer for most major titles with 20. The Spaniard came in prepared to defend his title, ranked second in the world and moving through the rounds rather quickly. Nadal won the first four rounds in straight sets before having to go to a tiebreaker in the quarterfinals, eventually winning that in three as well. Nadal saw some pushback in the semis too, going to a tiebreaker in the third set, however he clinched the set to advance to the finals. There, Nadal and Djokovic met once again, though like their previous meeting a year before, Rafa won in three straight, marking yet another tournament he refused to drop a set.
So, will the King of Clay win his 14th tournament title at this year’s French Open? Fans can place their bet on him and all the other favorites at BetUS.com.