Rafa Nadal: this has been his 13 bites at Roland Garros

By repeated, the photo of Rafa Nadal biting the Musketeers Cup it is still iconic. Bjorn Borg held the tournament record, with six and four in a row, and the Spanish has doubled him. In all of tennis history, no equal dominance is known at a Grand Slam.

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2005: With only 19 years and 2 days, the world amazes at Puerta

The love affair with Roland Garros began with pumpkins. In 2003, Nadal suffered an elbow injury. And in 2004, a foot stress fracture. So he debuted earlier at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He officially stepped onto the land of Paris on May 23, 2005 against world number 65, Lars Burgsmüller, on track 1, away from the stars and the hustle and bustle. The German was beaten 6-1, 7-6 and 6-1 by a boy in pirate pants, a green shirt with cropped sleeves that revealed already impressive brown biceps, and a bandana in his hair. Rogue face and boundless bravery. No ball was lost.

But Nadal was not a stranger, because he had appeared in 2004 winning the Davis in Seville alongside Carlos Moyá… now your technician. And he came with a visiting card of 17 consecutive victories and the titles of Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome (5 sets with Coria). In the semifinals, on the same day he turned 19, he had to face number one, Roger Federer. It lasted four sets: 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 and 6-3. He blew out the candles with Pau Gasol, another sports icon who has always supported him and who traveled to see him. In the final Mariano Puerta was waiting for him (later it was learned that he had tested positive in an anti-doping control): 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 and 7-5. The first tears came. And the Cup of the Musketeers from the hands of Zinedine Zidane. A story of legend started.

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Nadal, along with Zidane, who presented the trophy in 2005, and Mariano Puerta.

2006: Djokovic and Vilas' 53 victories

In 2006 came the first confrontation with Djokovic (he wore shoes with the legend “Come on, Nole!”), that ended up retiring before him in quarters. In the final he knocked Federer down again (1-6, 6-1, 6-4 and 7-6). Surpassed Guillermo Vilas' record of 53 consecutive wins on gravel, which presented him with a trophy in remembrance, and raised it to 81 in 2007. Nadal's legend has been forged by sharing tracks with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, whom he has won six times in Paris. The two have a title at Roland Garros, but the Swiss stopped playing the last three editions bored of the dominance of the Spanish. In this of 2019, on his return, he was again swallowed by the king of the earth in the semifinals. The Serbian also had between eyebrows to win the second, but …

2007: “I'm sorry Roger” and draw with Arantxa

“I am very sorry for Roger.” That was the first thing Rafa Nadal managed to say after winning the Swiss, that already by then he was chasing the only great one that was missing to complete the Grand Slam (he would not achieve it until 2009), in a second final at Roland Garros. It was one of many shows of mutual respect that the two giants have dedicated to each other in their careers. He finished 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 and 6-4. With his third title, he equaled Arantxa Sánchez Vicario as the Spanish tennis player with the most wound in the Bolonia Forest. The “Let's go!” that made her popular was already hers, and she made a place among the best. He was already at the level of Guga Kuerten, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl or René Lacoste. He only had Henri Cochet and Bjorn Borg ahead of him.

2008: Four in a row, as Bjorn Borg

He took the trophy without conceding a single set and only 37 games. Again, Roger Federer had to suffer him in the final, where he took a beating: 6-1, 6-3 and 6-0. One of those that have hurt and conditioned the Swiss the most, who despite being considered the best in history has a rather unfavorable balance (24-16) compared to the Spanish after this year's victory in the semifinals. And he has never managed to defeat him at Roland Garros. Bjorn Borg gave him the Musketeers' Cup this time, because only the Swede, the previous cannibal on earth, had achieved four in a row (six in total). That year, Nadal also won Wimbledon, the Olympic gold in Beijing and rose to number one.

2010: Söderling beat up and back to one

In 2009, Nadal fell against Robin Söderling in the round of 16 with his knees very touched (then resigned from Wimbledon) and that allowed Federer to be champion at last. The Spaniard confessed that he cried seeing Roger lift the Cup: “He deserved the big four.” “I was thinking more about my knees than about games,” he also said. In 2010, it was reconquest. And in one fell swoop, he took revenge on the Swede in the final (6-4, 6-2 and 6-4) and returned to the number one he had lost in July of the previous year, unseating the Swiss. He thus became the first tennis player in history to complete the so-called Clay Slam: the three Masters 1,000 of clay (Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid) and Roland Garros. A perfect season, without blemish on land. A surface made to measure.

2011: Ten 'greats', with the sixth in Paris

Nadal arrived touched, as he had just lost the finals of the Masters 1,000 in Madrid and Rome against Novak Djokovic, who was already climbing to his beard, and his number one was in danger. But he became strong in Paris, his talisman. In a last vibrant match, in which he came back from 5-2 in the first set, he beat Federer again 7-5, 7-6, 5-7 and 6-1. It was his tenth Grand Slam and the sixth at the clay sanctuary, which put him on a par with Bjorn Borg, once again the Ice Viking, as the tennis player with the most titles in Paris.

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Rafa Nadal, with the Cup of the Musketeers in 2011.

2012: Lluvia, Djokovic and at the top already alone

It was the year he passed Borg. It was placed, with seven titles, at the top of the record. But he had to suffer. Djokovic had defeated him in the finals of Wimbledon, US Open and Australia. A coup in Paris would have been final. On Sunday, the rain stopped the final with a 2-1 advantage for the Spanish … but with the Serbian thrown. He knew how to win on Monday: 6-4, 6-3, 2-6 and 7-5.

2013: Battle with Nole and review of Ferrer

The eighth will be remembered for an inhuman battle against Djokovic in the semifinals. After 4:37, he finished 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 and 9-7. “I enjoy suffering,” said the later champion. In the final, he destroyed David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2 and 6-3. In 2012 it had been seven KO months.

2014: Final to the limit and ninth win

Djokovic cried, because the only big one that was missing escaped him (He would later win it in 2016), and Nadal cried, dizzy and cramped. He had managed to defeat the Belgrade superclass, who had brought him down four times in a row. He escaped defeat thanks to passion: 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 and 6-4. “I was devastated, it was the hardest final physically,” the Spaniard later summed up. It was his ninth crown in Paris and the fifth in a row, something never seen.

2017: The tenth fell

Again you doubt. Again start over. In 2015, Rafa fell to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in three sets. A changing of the guard was announced. In 2016, he was forced to retire with a left wrist injury that also knocked him out for Wimbledon and that he recovered at forced marches to reach the Rio Games and hang the gold in doubles with Marc López. In October, he decided to stop and fully heal his physique. In December, he announced the addition of Carlos Moyá to his team to boost a career that threatened to languish after so much success. With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray very plugged and Roger Federer standing six months with a knee injury, nobody trusted that the Spanish and the Swiss were going to fight for the titles. But Australia arrived in January, and the Federer-Nadal classic was repeated. The title went to the Swiss, aged 35.

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Nadal, is dropped on the ground after winning the title in 2017.

Nadal was planted in the sanctuary of the earth after having played three finals (the Oceanic Grand Slam, Acapulco and Miami) and three titles in the bag: Montecarlo, Barcelona and Madrid. The monster had risen.

In the broad avenues of the Philippe Chatrier, Nadal's tennis weighs more. No one dared to cough on his way, not even Dominic Thiem, the new 23-year-old specialist who had beaten him in the quarter-finals in Rome. Only the Wawrinka hurdle remained, and he jumped over it. The tenth Cup of the Musketeers came after the tenth Monte Carlo and the tenth Godó. A run of 10.

2018: It wasn't time for the Thiem heir

Rafa Nadal had a unique objective this year: to reach Roland Garros. He ended 2017 with his right knee very touched, dragging trouble from Shanghai and forced to retire at the Masters after losing to David Goffin. He faced the preseason calmly, with less intensity than other years. Cautious. In fact, he didn't play anything before the Australian Open. And there, in the quarterfinals, a psoas-iliac injury after the last third of the year prevented him from finishing his match against Marin Cilic. Again to start from scratch. The Spanish did not return to play until the Davis Cup, in Valencia and after 74 days of absence. He did not want to risk anything to be fully grounded. And at the Xàtiva street arena, he killed the little prince Alexander Zverev in a brutal way at his premiere.

They came the eleventh title in Monte Carlo, and at Godó, and a defeat against Thiem in Madrid, and the eighth in Rome. Nadal, once again impressive on gravel and the top candidate for the title at Roland Garros. The draw was benevolent and only suffered with Schwartzman in the quarterfinals (the rain appeared and, in the resumption the next day, it embroiled it). On the other side of the picture, Nishikori, Djokovic, Thiem and Zverev had to “stick together.” And the Austrian survived. The man destined to be her heir. But Rafa delayed the moment of the succession: 6-4, 6-3 and 6-2.

2019: A brutal first set and the 12th

At the age of 33, 14 after his debut in Paris, Rafa Nadal once again bit and embraced the Musketeers Cup. A story that does not bore anyone, except his rivals. Like Dominic Thiem, who this year had defeated Roger Federer in the Indian Wells final and Novak Djokovic in a great five-set semi-final match. The Austrian fell 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 and 6-1. Nadal, who had exorcised his demons with a title in Rome after falling in Monte Carlo (Fognini), Godó (Thiem) and Tsitsipas (Madrid) had a good initial draw and took advantage of it. And in the final, which had a brutal first set, he reigned.

2020: The pandemic tournament and the beating of Djokovic

Nadal's 13th title in Paris looked difficult. Because of the cold conditions in autumn, because of the new harder and less live Wilson balls coupled with humidity. But the Roland Garros of the pandemic was also his. Without giving up a single set in the entire tournament, he beat Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2 and 7-5 in the final in 2:41. His 20th Grand Slam title that equaled Roger Federer at the top of tennis.