He's experienced close calls throughout each of his 12 Roland Garros title runs. But every time, Rafael Nadal has ultimately shown a killer instinct. Today, we look back at the Spaniard's return to glory in the French capital.
2010 FRENCH OPEN
Hello from the outside. This was new terrain for Nadal, having suffered his first Roland Garros defeat at the hands of Robin Soderling a year earlier. With the gravity of an undefeated record no longer pulling Nadal down, the four-time titlist flew in cruise control much like he did two years earlier. He wasn’t quite as merciless in these 21 sets, but his passion still burned ferociously, setting fire to the rain of 2009. Nadal tripped up Soderling with his defensive flair to reclaim his throne, as well as the No. 1 ranking from Federer.
Most impressive win: Final; Nadal d. Soderling, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
There was amplified anticipation for this final, but Nadal made sure his rematch with Soderling was a one-sided affair. Not wanting history to repeat itself, Nadal was uncompromising in chasing every shot. His scrambling seeped under Soderling’s skin, and his seamless transition from defense to offense minimized the big-hitting Swede’s ability to play on the terms that propelled him to victory the previous year. Nadal produced a new record: the first to sweep the four principal clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and Paris.
Closest call: Quarterfinals; Nadal d. Almagro, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4
Nicolas Almagro, an excellent clay-courter himself, took a set off Nadal in their earlier Madrid semifinal. That result provided the fellow Spaniard a jolt of confidence he lacked when mustering a single game in each set against Nadal in the same Roland Garros stage two years prior. Almagro opened with a quick break advantage, though Nadal found his footing shortly thereafter, and was the sturdier of the two men in the moments that mattered.