Rafael Nadal Will Be Greatest French Open Player Ever With Win over David Ferrer

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IJune 9, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 07:  Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during the men's singles semi-final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day thirteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 7, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The list of men who have etched their name in the history books by winning the French Open is a long and winding one that includes Björn Borg, Rod Laver, Frenchman Yannick Noah, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi and others with multiple Grand Slam wins at Roland Garros. 

Should seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal complete his eighth career Grand Slam victory in Paris on Sunday by besting fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, there won't be any need for discussion about who the greatest tennis pro at Roland Garros is. 

Nadal will be the greatest French Open player in the history of the sport. 

Heck, he might already be there now, before Sunday's final against Ferrer kicks off. His seven titles are already better than any other pro in the open era, and his all-time record at Roland Garros speaks volumes about his dominance on clay, too. 

In addition to tying Max Decugis for the most all-time wins at the French Open (Decugis won eight when the tournament was the French Championship), Nadal would also become the first man to win eight Grand Slam titles at a single event (via BBC Sport):

Immersed in the middle of one of the best streaks of his professional career, Nadal has lost just two matches this season in singles play en route to a steady climb back up the ATP World Tour ranking. He's already passed Ferrer to reach No. 4, and has wins this year over two of the three players ahead of him on the list (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer). 

That includes Friday's five-set thriller against Djokovic, when Nadal managed to outlast the No. 1 player in the world to both avenge an earlier 2013 loss to the Djoker and in turn move into the finals of the French Open for the eighth time. 

Each time before, he walked away with a Grand Slam title. 

When you look at what Nadal has done at the French Open specifically, the numbers behind his dominance at Roland Garros re-affirm the fact that the 27-year-old is simply in a class above the rest of the field when it comes to the second Grand Slam of the season. 

Nadal now holds a 58-1 record after his win over Djokovic on Friday, and a win in the final on Sunday would mark his second four-win streak at the French Open. His first such streak was from 2005-2008, he lost before the final in 2009 and now can equal his first streak with a 2013 victory. 

As noted by ESPN's Stats & Info, his current streak at Roland Garros only pales in comparison to the first 31 wins in a row he had at the French Open after his first title in '05:

Despite some early troubles at the 2013 tournament, Nadal is back in position to continue his string of excellence at this event. Only Daniel Brands joined Djokovic as tennis players to take Nadal out of the third set so far, and those kind of impressive numbers are simply what we've come to expect out of Nadal in France.

As the old saying goes, the only things you can count on in life are death, taxes and a popular streak happening at the time. In this instance, that streak is Rafael Nadal winning matches at the French Open.

Proponents of resistance to this theory only have a couple of arguments. The French Championship era is widely considered to be the "amateur" version of the current layout, with 1968 marking the rollover into our current era. There were several multiple winners of that event, but few have stood the test of time into the Grand Slam era.

Borg's place in history is certainly one that poses a threat to Nadal's claim as the greatest of all-time at Roland Garros. Borg won six titles in eight years at the French Open, but he shocked the world by retiring in 1983 at the age of 26.

Christopher Clarey of the New York Times made the connection between the pair on Twitter:

Nadal is currently 27, and there are those who think that a young Borg would have gone on to win double-digit titles at the French Open if he would have continued to show up in Paris each summer to participate.

But he didn't, and as noted by Matthew Appleby, Nadal can break a current tie he holds with Borg for consecutive years with a Grand Slam title:

Borg is truly one of the greats, with his three-year streak of winning both the French Open and Wimbledon in the late 1970s and early 80s one of the best marks in professional sports. 

Only three players have accomplished that since, and Nadal is the only one among those three to do it twice. A comparison between Borg and Nadal would certainly be one to visit when both men's careers are over, but for now, we're simply focusing on French Open dominance. 

Without a doubt, Nadal has the edge over every other player to grace the clay courts at Roland Garros, his seven Open-era titles already firmly planted in the record books and his age (27) a sign that there will be time for more. 

Nadal made the announcement to withdraw from the Gerry Weber Open on Saturday (from the AP via Yahoo! Sports), but at this point in his career, that really shouldn't be news that impacts his status as a tournament favorite each week. 

It won't affect Sunday's match, either, as only Ferrer now stands in the way of one of the greatest nine-year runs we've ever seen by any athlete in the history of sports. 

Nadal already has a case as the best clay-court player of all-time and the best ever to win the French Open. With a win on Sunday, he'll close any discussion on the matter for good, at least until the next great champion emerges from the shadows when this historic streak of Roland Garros wins is finally over. 

These days, who knows when that will be. 


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