But was Nadal or Williams’ title run more impressive? Nadal faced a lot of the best players in the world along the way, but is that more important than Williams’ domination through the women’s bracket?
Let’s revisit each match that Serena and Rafa played, take a look at how they were tested—if at all—and then determine who was the more impressive champion. They were clearly the two best players at Roland Garros this year, but one was definitely better than the other. So, who will it be? Williams or Nadal?
Revisiting Serena’s Route to the Title
Williams entered Roland Garros as the woman to beat at the French Open as the No. 1 seed and the top player in the world. With a big target on her back, Williams took the pressure in stride and didn’t allow another early-round upset like a year ago.
Williams only dropped one game to Anna Tatishvili in the first round and just three in the second round against Caroline Garcia. Serena easily handled her third-round opponent, Sorana Cirstea, in straight sets, too. She defeated Roberta Vinci in the fourth round just as easily.
Svetlana Kuznetsova was the lone opponent who gave Serena any sort of trouble. Serena dominated the first set, winning 6-1. But Kuznetsova took the second, 6-3. Attempting to avoid a quarterfinal exit, Williams put the pedal to the metal and took down Kuznetsova in the third set, 6-3.
It was thought that Williams might face a similar battle against Sara Errani, the No. 5 seed at Roland Garros. But that didn’t happen. Williams absolutely crushed Errani, falling in just one game throughout the entire match. Williams would win in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, to advance to the title.
If anyone was going to top Serena at the French Open, it was going to be No. 2 Maria Sharapova. Williams proved to be the stronger player, taking the first set 6-4. Sharapova put in a solid effort to avoiding losing in the final, but Williams was much too powerful, as she won her second French Open crown in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
Revisiting Rafa’s Route the Title
Rafa is easily the best clay player there is and quite possibly the best there ever will be. He’s only lost on the surface twice this year and made sure that playing at Roland Garros wasn’t going to be the third. Nadal, however, didn’t make things easy on himself.
Nadal dropped the opening set to Daniel Brands in the first round, and the second round went to a tiebreak, which Rafa would end up winning. From there, he took no prisoners and won the following pair of sets to advance to the second round.
For the second straight match, Nadal fell in the opening set. But yet again, he battled back and ended up losing just three games in the next three sets against Martin Klizan. The streak would stop in the third round when Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini in straight sets. It would only take three sets to win in the fourth round and quarterfinals, too.
Then, Nadal faced his biggest test of the French Open, having to go head-to-head against the No. 1 player in the world, Novak Djokovic. Despite the fact that Nadal held a 1-0 and a 2-1 set lead, Djokovic forced a fifth, where the winner would advance to the title match. The two went back and forth, but after 16 games, Nadal prevailed.
Playing David Ferrer in the final was a cakewalk compared to his match against Djokovic. Ferrer never stood a chance against Nadal, as the seven-time champion made it eight in nine attempts, winning the French Open final in straight sets.
Whose Title Run Was More Impressive?
While some may think this is a close race, it isn’t. Nadal’s run was more impressive.
There’s no doubt that Williams was the most dominant woman in this year’s tournament. She only needed a third set once throughout her run at Roland Garros, and that didn’t even come in the final—it came in the quarterfinals. She rarely dropped a game and was never really in any danger of losing.
But then there’s Nadal, who was constantly tested all tournament long. He had to defeat the No. 27 seed, the No. 13 seed, the No. 9 seed, the No. 4 seed and the top seed. While Williams faced some worthy opponents, Nadal faced a much tougher road to his eighth French Open title.
It was mostly expected that both Serena and Rafa would come out on top at the beginning of the French Open, but considering that Nadal faced some of the game’s best players, he deserves the nod as the champion with the most important run to the title.