With the start of summer, the historic Roland-Garros French Open is already underway. The “King of Clay”, Rafael Nadal, is back in the semifinals and looks to make the Finals for the 5th straight year.
Nadal is no doubt the greatest player of all time to play on clay courts. He has an incredible record of 13-0 in the French Open finals! He has only lost THREE times in 16 years of playing in the French Open. His most recent defeat was in 2016 when he was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to lingering wrist issues.
His other two losses come from Robert Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015. After those matches, he quickly got revenge as he defeated Soderling in the 2010 Finals and defeated Djokovic just 8 months ago in the 2020 Finals.
Rafael Nadal on French Opens | Path to 13
His path to 13 has been incredibly remarkable to watch. One key thing to note is that in all 13 of these matches he has never been taken to 5 sets. His longest winning streak was during the stretch of 2010-2014 where he won five straight. Some more incredible stats to note is that before this year’s tournament he has had a bolstering record of 298-27, in fact the last time he dropped a set at Roland-Garros was in the 2019 Finals when he dropped the 2nd set to Dominic Thiem 5-7.
In his entire playing career at the French Open, he has only been taken to 5 sets twice. He had an incredible comeback victory against American John Isner back in the first round of the 2011 French Open where he found himself down 1 set to 2 sets and eventually won 3-2. His second match that went to 5 sets was arguably his closest, most hard-fought match in the French Open ever. That was against Novak Djokovic in the 2013 semifinals where he won the final set 9 games to 7.
What I think is the most incredible feat from Nadal is the fact that he has multiple tournament wins without dropping a single set. He has done it 4 times in his career: 2008, 2010, 2017, and last year 2020. To do something like this against professionals is showing just how great you really are. It must be something about that orange clay that gives him superpowers.
His path to victory in this year’s tournament is fairly easy. His only real competition is his semifinal matchup against Novak Djokovic. But I think that Nadal will have no problem with Djokovic as he dismantled him just 8 months ago in the French Open Final. In fact, I think Djokovic will struggle because of how his quarterfinal match went and the rest that he will be getting before the semifinals.
On the other side of the bracket are two players who have struggled in their careers against Nadal, Diego Schwartzman who is 1-10 all-time against Rafa and Matteo Berrettini who has just played once but lost against Nadal. It will be too tall of a task for either of these players to face off against the Spaniard great in the Final.
The 34-year-old is in incredible form as of late and looks to continue his great success in the French Open going into this week, hopefully, I don’t jinx him! With this French Open win, he will be in sole possession of the most men’s grand slam titles, with 21, passing Federer who has 20 This summer will feature some great tennis and he will look to continue his great play into the later months with the Wimbledon happening at the end of June, the Olympics in July, and finally the US Open at the end of August.
Akshay is a rising senior at the University of Miami. He is studying Marketing with a minor in Sports Administration. He is joining Knup Solutions with hopes of being able to contribute to the team at a high level, with his high attention to detail and perfectionist personality. Has done recreational freelance work for online gaming and sports previously, and is excited to use his skills in the real world