David Vincent/Associated Press
2014 French Open Expectations
Nadal had been almost unbeatable at Rolland Garros, making him the favorite to win a record ninth French Open title. He had lost only one match in his 60 career matches at the French Open.
Nonetheless, there was a hint of vulnerability this time, as Nadal had not been as dominant as he had been in past years in the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Nadal had lost to Wawrinka in the finals of the first Grand Slam event of the year in Australia. More significant was the fact that Nadal had lost his last four matches against his chief challenger, Djokovic, who had beaten Nadal on clay in the finals of the Italian Open a week before the French Open. A troublesome back was also a concern.
However, Nadal had a combined 10-0 record against Djokovic and Federer at the French Open, and it would take a Herculean effort to beat Nadal in a best-of-five match in a major event on clay.
2014 French Open Performance
Nadal dispatched any notion that he had slipped by rolling to his ninth French Open championship, tying Martina Navratilova's nine Wimbledon crowns for the Open-era record for most titles in a given Grand Slam event.
It was also Nadal's 14th major title, tying him with Pete Sampras and leaving him just three shy of Federer's record for Grand Slam singles titles by a male. The 28-year-old Nadal improved his record to 66-1 at Roland Garros while capturing his fifth straight French Open title, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg, who also won four consecutive French crowns.
Nadal did it with a convincing victory in the finals over the one player who seemed capable of beating him at Roland Garros, Djokovic. Djokovic was not at his best in the finals and seemed to be ailing, but Nadal was not completely healthy either, as his back problems arose late in the match. Nonetheless, Nadal controlled most of the contest in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 victory that left him with a 6-0 record against the No. 2-ranked Djokovic at the French Open. Nadal is also 9-3 against Djokovic in Grand Slam events.
Nadal's run to the finals was also impressive. He blew through his first four opponents without the loss of a set.
In the quarterfinals, Nadal got past last year's French Open runner-up and the No. 5 seed, Ferrrer, in relatively easy fashion. Ferrer, who had beaten Nadal on the clay in Monte Carlo in April, won the first set, but Nadal completely dominated the last two sets. Nadal was even more dominant in the semifinals, handing Murray his worst loss ever in a Grand Slam event, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
Nadal will retain the No. 1 ranking he has held since wresting the top spot from Djokovic last October.
When you add it all up, it's nearly impossible to give Nadal anything other than the highest possible grade.
Final Grade: A+