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 sixth triumph in the French capital.
2011 FRENCH OPEN
Nadal’s journey towards matching Borg’s major milestone in Paris would require clear conviction in his game. He was on the losing end of four finals in 2011, all against a resilient Djokovic, who arrived in Paris with a 37-0 season start. Nadal’s voyage this fortnight began with his longest French Open first-round match, a four-hour test from John Isner and ended with meeting a reinvigorated Federer. As Federer’s final forehand sailed long, Nadal dropped to his knees, now in Borg’s company with six Roland Garros trophies and the newest member the double-digit major club.
Most impressive win: Final; Nadal d. Federer, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1
Federer was riding high, having ended Djokovic’s perfect season in the semifinals, and sustained that belief to start the championship clash. With Federer serving at 5-2, Nadal proceeded to reel off seven straight games, saving a set point in the process, and would open a hard-fought two set, 4-2 lead. Federer made one last stand, digging his heels in to snatch the third set. Like he’s demonstrated so often, Nadal hit the reset button, punishing short balls and drawing errors from his frustrated foe to win the first major final between two men holding Career Grand Slams.
Closest call: First round; Nadal d. Isner, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4
Nadal had never played a five-setter at the French Open, until now. Despite an inability to break Nadal’s serve, it was Isner who stepped up to the plate to seize two straight tiebreakers. Remarkably, the world No. 1 responded by winning the fourth set without striking an unforced error and wore down the American in classic Nadal fashion.