Rafael Nadal has won 14 titles from 18 trips to Paris, writing the Roland Garros record books and dominating like no one before him at a single Major. The Spaniard has suffered only three losses at his favorite event, winning 112 of 115 matches since 2005. Rafa had to work hard to secure some of those victories, including three difficult rivals a couple of weeks ago en route to his 14th Roland Garros crown. Struggling with a foot injury, Nadal needed an injection ahead of every match in Paris, taking the pain away and scoring seven wins to lift the 22nd Major trophy. Asked about his most challenging Roland Garros campaigns from the past, Rafa mentioned his runs in 2011 and 2020. Following that shocking 2009 defeat to Robin Soderling, Nadal claimed the fifth Roland Garros crown in 2010 after ousting the Swede in the title match.
A year later, Rafa added the sixth Roland Garros trophy to his tally and became the second player to achieve that after Bjorn Borg. Like in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Nadal beat Roger Federer in the title match and lifted the tenth Major trophy right after his 25th birthday! Rafa did not like the conditions and balls that year in Paris, struggling already in the first round against John Isner, whom he beat 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Nadal spent almost three hours and 20 minutes on the court against the fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the second round to earn a 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 victory. Andujar created 16 break opportunities and converted five, still failing to take at least a set, as Nadal won the crucial points to prevail and avoid a possible five-hour marathon. In the semis, Rafa had to battle hard to survive the Andy Murray challenge in three hours and 17 minutes, repelling 15 out of 18 break chances against the opponent who pushed him to the limits in one of his finest Parisian displays.
Rafael Nadal explained his most challenging Roland Garros campaigns.
Saving enough energy for the title clash, Rafa took down Roger 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 in three hours and 40 minutes for a milestone Major title. The Spaniard overcame a 5-2 deficit in the first set and prevailed in the second for a massive lead against the most significant rival, who was ready to challenge him following that epic semi-final victory over Novak Djokovic. Roger claimed the third set but had nothing more left in the tank, taking only one game in set number four to hand the trophy to Rafa. In 2020, Rafa claimed the 13th Roland Garros crown, beating all rivals in straight sets but working hard to achieve that.
The event occurred in October, and the Spaniard had to deal with cold weather, new Wilson balls and a roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier. Rising to the occasion, Rafa toppled all seven rivals in straight sets, getting broken only eight times and dominating the return to secure the 20th Major crown. In the quarter-final, the Spaniard had to dig deep against Jannik Sinner before repeating that in the third set against Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic, passing all the obstacles and beating the Serb 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the title clash.
“My toughest Roland Garros challenges came in 2011 and 2020, two challenging years for me. The season behind us was the most unexpected in terms of Parisian conditions. I suffer a lot when I play during cold weather; my body does not like it. Also, my shots were less effective during my first training and matches. Little by little, I made improvements and got ready for the title clash against Novak, knowing I can play at maximum,” Rafael Nadal said.