Of 100 Roland Garros Wins, Rafa Says These Four Are His Favourites...
The Spaniard selects some of his best matches in Paris
Notching up 100 wins in an ATP Tour career is commendable in itself, but doing it at just one tournament - particularly a major - is extraordinary. Very few players have reached a century at one venue, and that is precisely the mark that Rafael Nadal reached on Sunday by winning a historic 13th Roland Garros crown (d. Djokovic). The Spanish superstar’s record in Paris is now 100-2.
The Balearic Islander took some time to make his debut on the French clay, in fact it was the last Grand Slam championship he participated in. Wimbledon in 2003 (at 17 years of age) witnessed his first appearance at a major tournament and he would also play in the 2003 Australian Open, the 2004 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open before competing in Paris for the first time.
His love affair with south-west Paris all started on 23 May 2005. On that day, against Germany's Lars Burgsmuller, he played his first match at Roland Garros and won 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-1 win in one hour and 45 minutes. It would be the first chapter of a legendary relationship with Roland Garros. His latest victory came on Sunday, when he recorded his 100th victory, which also marked a record-equalling 20th major crown.
Nadal’s Milestones at Roland Garros
1) Lars Burgsmuller – 2005 first round
10) Paul-Henri Mathieu – 2006 third round
20) Novak Djokovic – 2007 semi-final
30) Teymuraz Gabashvili – 2009 second round
40) Pablo Andujar – 2011 second round
50) Nicolas Almagro – 2012 quarter-finals
60) Robby Ginepri – 2014 first round
70) Jack Sock – 2015 fourth round
80) Simone Bolelli – 2018 first round
90) Juan Ignacio Londero – 2019 fourth round
100) Novak Djokovic – 2020 final
But with so many victories at Roland Garros, ATPTour.com asked Nadal for his favourites. Although he finds it hard to separate them, the Mallorcan chose the following wins over the rest. “Perhaps, the wins after difficult times, are the ones that are the most fulfilling”, admitted Nadal.
Of all the matches Nadal has won at Roland Garros, only two of them have gone to a fifth set. One of them was the 2013 semi-final against Novak Djokovic, in which he beat the Serb 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 in four hours and 37 minutes. “But, perhaps, if I had to choose one, it would be the semi-final against Djokovic in 2013. It was very valuable to me.”
In 2012, Nadal produced an impeccable performance, reaching the final without losing a set. Six Roland Garros trophies already adorned his cabinet and, probably, that year he was facing one of his biggest challenges in Paris, having lost to Djokovic in their past three Grand Slam deciders. Nadal delivered, winning 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, for his seventh crown. “The 2012 final was also valuable because I had lost three consecutive Grand Slam finals against Novak," said Nadal. "Both the 2013 semi-final and also this 2012 final were important matches. There have been many others, it is difficult to choose one."
The fourth all-Spanish final at Roland Garros was another of the Manacor native’s greatest moments in Paris. Although in terms of the scoreline it was not one of his closest duels, as he managed to beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 16 minutes, there was certainly something special about it. “Winning in 2013 meant much more to me, because I had just had a very long injury, after many months without playing," said Nadal. "It was a very special year for me."
Three years after claiming his last crown in 2014, he was back on the Court Philippe-Chatrier bidding for his 10th Roland Garros trophy. In his previous appearances in 2015, he had bowed out in the quarter-finals, while a year later he had to withdraw before he was able to play in the third round. In 2017, Nadal completed one of his best tournaments at Roland Garros, winning without losing a set. In the final round he beat 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. “Winning here in 2017 was incredible, because in 2017 I had also just had a very difficult injury,” said Spaniard.