Rafael Nadal: Power Ranking His Greatest Grand Slam Victories

Marc Weinreich@QuestionMarcsCorrespondent IJune 27, 2012

Rafael Nadal: Power Ranking His Greatest Grand Slam Victories

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    Rafael Nadal should play his next match on the moon; the guy has won on every one of Earth's surfaces. 

    His 50 career titles include 11 Grand Slam wins, seven French Open wins, two at Wimbledon (and perhaps another this year), one at the Australian Open and another U.S. Open win.

    And let's not forget his gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.

    Perhaps most telling is his No. 2 world ATP ranking. Nadal isn't slowing down. Expect more before he calls it a career.

    But he's accomplished so much already that we need to pause for a moment to take a look at his most notable victories.

    Here's my look at Nadal's three greatest Grand Slams ever.

French Open 2005: The Start of Something Special

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    In 2005, Nadal was seeded fourth going into the French Open. On his 19th birthday, he would go on to defeat some guy named Roger Federer in the semi-finals, making him just one of only four players that year to defeat Federer, who was then ranked No. 1 (Marat Safin, Richard Gasquet and the now-infamous David Nalbandian had also done it).

    Nadal reached the finals two days later on a complete high from taking down Federer, and defeated Mariano Puerta of Argentina 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. At barely 19-years-old, Nadal became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam since Michael Chang. It also hadn't been since Mats Wilander in 1982 that a player won the French Open on his first attempt.

    Just for good measure, the French Open win for Nadal also marked the first time a teenager won a Grand Slam since Pete Sampras was crowned at the U.S. Open in 1990 at the age of 19.

    Nadal had been climbing his way up the ATP ladder, but this win at the French Open let even casual fans know that he's a talent with a bright future on clay.

    What most people didn't realize was that they're looking at the greatest player ever on clay just getting started.

2012 French Open: Erasing Any Doubt

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    For a brief moment, there seemed to be a new sheriff in town. Nadal and Federer had gone back and fourth in recent the years, vying for the spotlight as the world's greatest tennis player.

    But then Novak Djokovic took his game to another level, prompting SportsCenter to further their attempts at bridging sports with pop culture by paying homage to Dave Chappelle. During another moment of complete Djoko domination, the question, "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to Djokovic?" was posed.

    Beginning in 2011, Djokovic went on an historic streak, winning 84.7 percent of his matches, including five Grand Slams throughout 2011 and 2012. He also ranked No. 1 in the world for over 11 months.

    Nadal, meanwhile, was turning out sub-par performances and early exits due to injury.

    At the 2012 French Open, Nadal and Djokovic met for the fourth consecutive Grand Slam final, something that has never been done in tennis history.

    And Nadal let everyone know that if you thought he went anywhere, he's now back to his old self, especially on clay.

    He defeated Djokovic in a final that stretched two days because of interruptions from mother nature, beating Djoko 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. That one set he dropped in the Final was the only set he lost in the entire tournament.

    The win was huge. He made history by improving to a staggering 52-1 at Roland Garros and surpassed Bjorn Borg's overall titles record.

    But perhaps most impressive and reassuring for him is that he let everyone know that he's still in rare form, defeating the man that had denied him wins in the last three Grand Slam finals.

    In doing so, he denied Djoko the distinction of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four Grand Slams in a single year.

    Victory, they say, is served best with a side of revenge.

2008 Wimbledon: The Greatest Match Ever

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    Sometimes you pay a lot of money for a sporting event and walk away feeling like you just got ripped off because it turned out to be such a lopsided victory.

    Maybe that was the case for fans at the 2008 French Open Final, when Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. It was the most lopsided French Open Final in 21 years and was Federer's worst loss in 173 Grand Slam matches.

    Not so at 2008 Wimbledon.

    Talk about a rivalry; Nadal and Federer are the only pair of men to finish four consecutive years ranked at the top.

    The match was constantly interrupted by bad weather and even got off to a late start because of rain. Nadal ended up taking the first two sets, 6-4, 6-4, but Federer hung tough and won the next two sets in tie breakers, 7-6, 7-6.

    At that point, people knew they were in for a treat, including the Prince and Princess of Spain, who were on hand to watch their fellow Spaniard.

    Nadal ended up winning the match 9-7 in the fifth set, which wasn't a tie-breaker. They played the full set, 16 games, because of Wimbledon rules. The match lasted almost five hours — four hours and 48 minutes—and it became the longest final in Wimbledon history.

    John McEnroe called the match the "greatest ever seen."

    The win was huge for Nadal, because besides defeating Federer on such a grand stage, it was his first non-French Open Final win, making it harder for critics to argue that he's only stellar on clay.

    But make no mistake. The match was nothing short of epic because Nadal had just seen the very best from arguably the greatest tennis player ever and still came out on top.

    And Federer knew it all too well, calling the 2008 Wimbledon Final "probably my hardest loss, by far."