Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal on Sunday won his record-setting 12th French Open title. Following is a resume of his career in Paris to date:
2005: The arrival of a fighter
In the previous year, his name had resounded across the Tour, but an injury prevented Nadal from taking part in the French tournament. The rumours and talk around the left-handed Spanish player with a powerful forehand pushed expectations sky-high as he came in for his go at Roland Garros, the Efe news reported.
That year he played an outstanding clay court season and arrived in Paris as world No. 5. 10 days before his 18th birthday. Nadal made his auspicious French Open debut by defeating Germany’s Lars Burgsmüller 6-1, 7-6, 6-1.
In the third round, he faced off against France’s Richard Gasquet, who was then another promising young player. In the semifinal, Nadal defeated Roger Federer, repeating his win over the Swiss icon. He needed four sets to prevail over Argentina’s Mariano Puerta in the final, having lost the opener on a tiebreak.
2006: Twice is nice
Having been invincible on clay and as the favourite to win the title and second seed, Nadal ended up playing Federer. On his way to the final, he benefitted from the retirement of Serbian star Djokovic in the quarterfinals. He needed four sets to hoist his second title and to defeat Federer in the final for the first time.
2007: Nadal staves off Federer
The Spanish star returned to Paris as the Clay court season dominator, but having a bit of doubt in his game, having lost the Italian Open final to Federer, whose hope for a maiden French Open trophy, the only major title he was missing, thrived. After getting past Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Djokovic, the Spanish clay king topped the Swiss tennis master in four sets.
2008: Equaling Borg
Nadal claimed his easiest win, the first he achieved without dropping a set, repeating his wins over Djokovic and Federer in the semifinal and final respectively.
Falling to the Spanish player, Federer was handed his worst Grand Slam defeat; 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
With the victory, Nadal equalled Bjorn Borg’s four consecutive French Open titles.
2010: The return of the King of Clay
Nadal proved the critics wrong, having been handed his first French Open defeat in the previous year by Robin Soderling of Sweden, who ended the Spaniard’s Ronald Garros winning streak at 31 matches.
He came back even stronger and got revenge on the Swede, who managed to win only 10 games in the final. Nadal won the French Open final without dropping a set for the second time.
2011: The Djokovic threat
Despite arriving in Paris ranked No. 1 in the world, Nadal was facing the threat posed by Djokovic, who was undefeated that entire season and thus a favourite to win the French Open.
The beginning of the tournament was not promising either for the Spaniard, as he needed, for the first time, five sets to qualify for the second round.
Nadal, however, improved as he advanced in the tournament, setting up a final clash against Federer, who toppled Djokovic in the semifinal.
In four sets, Nadal managed to defeat the Swiss player to equal Borg’s six total French Open titles.
2012: Breaking the tie with Borg
In 2012, Nadal has the chance to surpass French Open legend Borg.
First the Spaniard needed to best Djokovic who drew strength from the three consecutive Grand Slam finals in which he had defeated the Nadal.
The final between the Serb and the Spaniard, was interrupted due to rain and played over two days, and allowed Nadal to claim his seventh crown.
2013: The epic semifinal against Djokovic
Out of all his Ronald Garros victories, the 2013 semifinal clash against Djokovic is the most epic. Four hours and 37 minutes of intensity, alternating momentum and match points that eventually opened the door for Nadal to reach his eighth final.
In the final he earned an easy win over his countryman David Ferrer, becoming the most successful male player in a single Grand Slam event.
2014: The new threat of Djokovic
Nadal arrived in Paris having lost his previous five matches against the Serb. Both players reached the final, where the Spaniard displayed his strength as the king of the French Open, clinching his ninth title.
This year the Spaniard master of clay set the longest winning streak at the French Open.
2017: The 10th title
After two years without winning a Ronald Garros title in wake of injuries, Nadal returned to Paris.
Nadal did not face significant resistance on his way to the 10th title, with Djokovic struggling for consistency after winning the title in the previous edition and Federer skipping the tournament.
Nadal managed to defeat Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in the final.
2018: Tying with Margaret Court
No rival seemed to be a match for Nadal who was seeking his 11th title to tie with Margaret Court of Australia, who held the record for the most wins in a single Grand Slam event with 11 Australian Open titles.
Nadal reached the final where he faced Dominic Thiem of Austria, whom many considered to be Nadal’s heir on the clay court, but young Thiem was unable to win a set as the King of Clay rolled to his 11th title.
2019: The new revival of the king
Nadal came to Paris with doubts about his game, having gone through arguably the worst clay court season of his career. He admitted that he struggled mentally in wake of injuries, but his Italian Open triumph was morale-boosting.
On his way to the final, he dropped a set against David Goffin of Belgium and a set in the final clash against Thiem. But the result was the same as Spanish superstar became the most successful tennis player of all time at a major tournament, with 12 victories.