Djokovic bested Nadal in four sets on Friday, “dropping” Rafa’s French Open record to a staggering 105-3 in 17 appearances. If Novak beats Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, he’ll move to within one Slam of tying Roger and Rafa.
62 of Nadal’s 88 career titles have come on clay, and his 13 French titles marks the most by any player in any tournament in tennis history.
We won’t see Nadal bite a 14th trophy on Court Philippe-Chatriet in 2021, but there will likely be more majors in the pipeline. At the age of 35, Nadal is still playing some of the best tennis of his career — and his spirit, heart, and grit have never wavered. Ever.
For now, despite the rare loss at Roland Garros, let’s revisit all 20 of Nadal’s Grand Slam victories. Vamos.
2005 French Open
From the moment Nadal stepped foot on the hallowed red clay of Roland Garros, he was the best clay-court player in the world.
Nadal burst on the pro scene in 2004, but missed the clay season due to a stress fracture. In 2005, after a couple of breakthroughs in sizable tournaments, Nadal made his French Open debut.
Ranked no. 5 following a dominant clay season, Rafa, on his 19th birthday, topped Federer in the semifinals. He would defeated a roided-up Mariano Puerta in the final, becoming the second male player to win the French in his first appearance.
2006 French Open
The following year, Nadal secured his second career Slam after dominating the clay circuit, once again. Nadal defeated Federer in a fourth-set tiebreaker in the first of many meetings between the two GOATs in major finals.
2007 French Open
Rafa made it a three-peat in ’07, though not before his record 81-match winning streak on clay came to an end at the hands of Federer at a warm-up tournament in Hamburg. A few weeks later, he toppled Roger in four sets on Philippe-Chatrier.
2008 French Open and Wimbledon
2008 was the year Nadal became a true force on all surfaces. After reaching the semis in Melbourne, Prime Nadal demolished Federer in the Franch Open Final, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, in one of the most dominant performances in the history of tennis.
One month later, the two rivals faced off for the third straight year in the Wimbledon Final. Only this time, Nadal outdueled Roger in what many consider the greatest match in tennis history.
Rafa took the match, 9-7 in the fifth, as darkness descended upon the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. To this day, it remains the longest match in ATP history, in terms of court-time.
2009 Australian Open
Nadal completed the third leg of the career Grand Slam in 2009 in an epic Aussie Open run that tested the limits of his unrivaled determination and endurance.
In the semifinals, Nadal beat fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in a 5-hour, 14-minute bout, the second-longest in tourney history. In the final, he was again pushed to five sets, and held off Federer to win his first hard-court major and the first Australian Open by a Spaniard.
2010 French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open
2010 was Nadal’s best overall season on tour, as he became the first male player in tennis history to win three Grand Slams in one year on three different surfaces.
First, Nadal rolled through Robin Soderling in the French Open final, avenging his shocking (and injury-hampered) fourth-round loss to Soderling in 2008. It was the second time he won the French without dropping a set.
At Wimbledon, Nadal took down Tomas Berdych for his eighth career Slam title. At the U.S. Open that September, Nadal was as dominant and he’d ever been on hard court. He lost one set the entire tournament, against Djokovic in the final.
2011 French Open
Nadal and Federer met once again in the 2011 French Open final (they’ve been at this for a while). Federer brought his game, but Nadal was simply too much on clay. 7–5, 7–6 (7-3), 5–7, 6–1, Rafa.
2012 French Open
In the first Slam of the season, Nadal lost a record-setting 5 hour, 44-minute slugfest to Djokovic in the Aussie Open Final.
However, Rafa bounced back to win his seventh French, defeating Djokovic in an epic four-set final that took two days to complete thanks to rain. He lost three sets all season on clay.
2013 French Open and U.S. Open
Nadal outlasted and out-gutted Djokovic in the 2013 French Open semifinals — an all-time classic. (In fact, the physical toll cost him his first-round match at Wimbledon just a few weeks later.)
In September, Rafa secured his second career championship in Queens, topping Djokovic in four sets.
2014 French Open
2014 was Nadal’s first truly injured plagued year, but he still managed to win at Roland Garros, beating Djokovic 3–6, 7–5, 6–2, 6–4 to capture his eighth career championship in Paris.
2017 French Open
Physical issues increasingly plagued Nadal as he hit the age of 30, but Nadal, characteristically, persevered.
After dropping the Australian Open Final in five sets to Federer, Nadal took down another Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, in straight sets in Paris. He dropped 35 games and zero sets over seven matches at the French.
2018 French Open
Nadal’s earned his 11th French Open by teaching upstart Dominic Thiem a clinical lesson, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
2019 French Open and U.S. Open
In the 2019 semifinals, Nadal and Federer met on Court Philippe-Chatrier for the first time in eight years. Nadal, in peak form, rolled in straights. In the final, he met Thiem again, who gave him more of a challenge. However, it wasn’t enough, as Rafa prevailed in four.
He capped off a wondrous U.S. Open run with a seasoned five-set win over Daniil Medvedev.
At 35 years young, Rafa put together the second-most successful Grand Slam year of his career in 2019, by win percentage.
2020 French Open
Nadal’s latest triumph came this past October, during a sparsely attended and delayed French Open. Rafa torched Djokovic in the final, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
In addition to being the arguable GOAT of tennis and undeniable King of Clay, Nadal has been one of the greatest competitors in sports history. Appreciate him while he’s still whipping heavy forehands and pouring his soul into every point.