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 pursuit of a third successive title run in the French capital.
2007 FRENCH OPEN
Nadal was still the clear-cut favorite in Paris–but no longer held the title of invincible–after Roger Federer ended Rafa's 81-match win streak on clay in Hamburg. That loss would prove to be nothing but a blemish on Nadal’s immaculate resume. One by one, each opponent was swept aside, and Nadal advanced to the final without conceding a set for the first time. Another clash of the titans with Federer soon followed; when it was over, Nadal entered the record books by joining Bjorn Borg as the only man to win three French Open titles in a row since 1914.
Most impressive win: Semifinals; Nadal d. Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
Novak Djokovic was a budding star—and one of Nadal’s earlier-season conquerors in a remarkable run to the Miami crown. Nadal took their next encounter in Rome and replicated that same authority at Roland Garros, never letting Djokovic settle into his first Grand Slam semifinal with a 48 percent success rate against the Serbian’s serve.
Closest call: Final; Nadal d. Federer, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Act III saw different plot points carried out between Nadal and Federer, yet concluded with the same end scene: a four-set victory. Federer hoped securing his first clay-court win over Nadal would foreshadow a flip of the Paris script. On this day, Nadal came up clutch when he was pressured, saving 16 of the 17 break points he faced (including all 10 in the opening set) en route to his fifth title of the year.