French Open 2013: Power Ranking Rafael Nadal's 8 Titles at Roland Garros

Liam Boylan-PettContributor IJune 9, 2013

French Open 2013: Power Ranking Rafael Nadal's 8 Titles at Roland Garros

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    On Sunday, Rafael Nadal won his eighth French Open title in nine years with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 straight-set victory over fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer.

    Ho-hum. 

    At some point, it starts to get a little ridiculous. Nadal has played 60 matches at Roland Garros. He has lost only one of them.

    Robin Soderling left the lone blemish on Nadal's perfect French Open record with a 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) triumph in the fourth round at the 2009 French Open (and even so, Nadal may have been hurt; check out this fantastic look back at the match).

    Aside from that one hiccup, Nadal's French Open dominance is unparalleled. Winner in 2005, '06, '07, '08, '10, '11, '12 and '13, his eight championships at one Grand Slam are the most of any player in the Open era (Pete Sampras and Roger Federer both have seven Wimbledon wins).

    There may be no clear winner in the best-player-of-all-time-debate, but Nadal has a firm grasp on the greatest to play at Roland Garros.

    When someone becomes so dominant, the only thing to do is nitpick their brilliance. Fresh off winning his eighth Coupe des Mousquetaires, there is no better time than now to look back at all of Nadal's crowns and rank each one's significance. 

    From 2005 to 2013, see which of Nadal's wins were most impressive at Roland Garros.  

8. 2012: Djokovic Gets the Nadal Treatment, No Grand Slam for Him

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    Signature Moment: Nadal usually kept Roger Federer from capping off a brilliant run at Roland Garros. In 2012, it was Novak Djokavic who bore the brunt of Nadal's play on Paris' clay. A rain delay forced the match to take a break until Monday, when Nadal prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. He came back to assert his dominance after trailing 1-2 in the fourth set, right before the match was delayed.

    Career Significance: It was his seventh French Open title, tying him with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras for most wins at one Grand Slam event and leaving him as the most decorated French Open winner ever (Bjorn Borg has six titles). It was his 11th Grand Slam in total, trailing only Federer, Sampras, and Roy Emerson for most Grand Slam titles

    Why It Stands Out: At this point, Nadal's wins at France were almost a foregone conclusion. His victory over Djokavic, who had Nadal's number in venues away from Roland Garros, ended a streak of runner-up finishes at Grand Slams (he had finished second in Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open consecutively). 

7. 2006: Twice as Nice

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    Signature Moment: It gets to be a little redundant, but Roger Federer once again fell victim to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. This time it was in the final. After losing the first set 1-6, it seemed Nadal's luck at Roland Garros might have run out. Nadal took the next three sets 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to quiet any doubters and capture his second straight French Open. 

    Career Significance: Injuries have tried to derail Nadal many times. He missed the 2006 Australian Open due to a stress fracture, so coming back for the French Open, there was some hope for his competitors. The injury didn't seem to slow him, and his brilliance was on display once again. It was his second straight French Open win. The legend of Nadal in France was building. 

    Why It Stands Out: Nadal kept Federer from holding all four Grand Slam titles at one time. Federer would have been the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to accomplish the feat. However, Nadal's dominance on the clay was in full force. Federer told USA Today: "He's a fighter and a grinder, and he deserves to win here. He's got my respect for sure."

6. 2011: How Much Does Federer Hate This Guy?

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    Signature Moment: Federer was 0-3 against Nadal in French Open finals. But having broken through at Roland Garros in 2009 to win a career Grand Slam, Federer seemed poised to finally break his losing streak against Nadal. It was not meant to be. Nadal was too much once again. His fourth win in a final over Federer was his first since 2008. The hard-fought match was won by Nadal (7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1). 

    Career Significance: Nadal tied Bjorn Borg for most French Open titles when he won his sixth Coupe des Mousquetaires. It was also his fourth win in five Grand Slam tries (including the 2010 U.S. Open that gave him a career Grand Slam). Nadal went on to make the final of his next four Grand Slam events as well. He still seems capable of peaking, but this win may have been part of Nadal's finest run. 

    Why It Stands Out: The 2010 French Open quashed any doubts about the 2009 loss; the 2011 French Open was just another arguing point for Nadal as best tennis player ever. Nadal proved he could win on any surface when he won the career Grand Slam, but his pure brilliance on clay never faltered. 

5. 2007: Down Goes Federer

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    Signature Moment: Federer played bridesmaid for the second straight year to Nadal in the 2007 French Open final. Federer put up quite a fight in yet another attempt to garner a career Grand Slam, but Nadal prevailed once again (6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4).

    Career Significance: Nadal made history by becoming the second player to win three straight French Opens since 1914, joining Bjorn Borg. While he was still yet to win at another Grand Slam event, his perfect 21-0 record at Roland Garros was a jarring statistic that placed Nadal in rarefied tennis air. 

    Why It Stands Out: Federer was the only one to win a set against Nadal in the 2007 French Open, taking the second set of the final 6-4. Federer was playing at an extremely high level, but he couldn't match the utter brilliance of Nadal on the red clay of Roland Garros. 

4. 2010: He's Back

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    Signature Moment: Robin Soderling was the only one to ever beat Nadal in the French Open. Could he do it again? No. Nadal went right back to dominating the French Open and handled Soderling easily with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 straight-sets victory. 

    Career Significance: The win was Nadal's first Grand Slam victory since the 2009 Australian Open. The 2010 French Open started a brilliant run for Nadal. He went on to take Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to win three straight grand Slams and become only the seventh player to win all four. 

    Why It Stands Out: After the stunning loss in 2009, it was feasible that Nadal was vulnerable on the clay. Nadal quelled any doubts with a classic Nadal-esque run through the French Open, barely struggling at all. He reasserted his place at the top of Roland Garros.

3. 2005: First Time's a Charm

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    Signature Moment: Roger Federer was busy asserting his dominance over the tennis world when he ran smack dab into birthday boy Rafael Nadal in the 2005 French Open. On his 19th birthday, Nadal defeated top-seeded Federer in the semifinal. With unranked Argentinian Mariano Puerta waiting in the final, the semifinal victory over Federer looked like a championship match for Nadal.

    Career Signficance: After winning at Monte Carlo and Rome in the French Open lead-up, Nadal was a favorite. He lived up to the billing, steam-rolling through the tournament and setting the stage for what would be his supremacy at Roland Garros. It was his first Grand Slam title, and while he still had work to do off of the clay courts, it served as notice that he was on his way to greatness. 

    Why It Stands Out: This one was big for so many reasons. Nadal became the first player to win in his first French Open since Mats Wilander in 1982. At only 19 years old, the sky was the limit for Nadal, and his dominance even at such a young age was prevalent. It also let Federer know that winning the career Grand Slam wasn't a foregone conclusion. 

     


2. 2013: Nadal Simply the Best: Any Questions?

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    Signature Moment: The semifinal against Novak Djokavic was a de facto final. And it lived up to the billing. The five-set slugfest saw Nadal down a break in the final set before he came back to win on a break point and take a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 9-7 victory. The four-hour-37-minute match saw Nadal work his magic on clay again and again. 

    Career Significance: Nadal missed the 2012 U.S. Open and the 2013 Australian Open due to injury. It would have been easy for him to chalk up a bad French Open to injury. Instead, he came back with vigor and is playing some of the best tennis of his life. Lindsay Gibbs calls his comeback from injury the "greatest comeback in tennis history."

    Why It Stands Out: If anyone ever doubts Rafael Nadal, they should be forced to watch his entire tournament on loop until they apologize. His grit and skill were on full display at this year's French Open. With eight French Open titles to his name, he is undoubtedly the best player to ever take court at Roland Garros. 

1. 2008: Down Goes Federer (and Everyone Else) ... Again

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    Signature Moment: It is difficult to find a signature moment when someone wins as easily as Nadal did in the 2008 French Open. He failed to lose a set that year, including the final, where he won a lopsided affair 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 over Roger Federer, who was still seeking the career Grand Slam. All told, Nadal lost only 41 games and didn't drop a single set in 2008. 

    Career Significance: Nadal still hadn't won a Grand Slam anywhere other than Paris, but 2008 at Roland Garros saw Nadal at his finest. The above statistics of games and sets dropped are jaw-dropping, but the win at that year's French Open also led to Nadal breaking through in other Grand Slam events. He won Wimbledon in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2009. 

    Why It Stands Out: Nadal was unstoppable to the point of perfection. At 28-0, he was yet to lose on the clay in Paris. It didn't seem like he ever would. He would fall the following year to Robin Soderling, but Nadal's 2008 French Open run was dominant, brilliant, unsurpassed and about as perfect as a tennis match can be.