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 his 11th triumph in the French capital.
2018 FRENCH OPEN
Having not played for nearly three months, Nadal’s patience in nursing a string of injuries paid dividends. Lifting crowns at three of the four European clay events he entered, Paris was feeling a sense of déjà vu when Nadal rolled into town. Much like the year before, Nadal found little resistance as he made his way into the second week. A peppery Diego Schwartzman required Nadal to work for his place in the semifinals by taking—and finishing—full, fearless cuts. After that, Nadal made the necessary repairs to manufacture his 11th title, blowing past Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem to increase his major trophy haul to 17.
Most impressive win: Final; Nadal d. Thiem, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
Different round, same story. Thiem was the only player to defeat Nadal on the dirt the past two seasons. But translating that success to best-of-five was a different animal, arguably the most difficult to conquer. The Austrian had a year to think about his 2017 Paris semifinal demolition to Nadal, and while enhancements elevated him to No. 4 in the world, Rafa augmented his genius by sending Thiem back to the drawing board with yet another clinical display.
Closest call: Quarterfinals; Nadal d. Schwartzman, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
A barrage of 20 winners from the 5’7’’ Schwartzman gave the Argentine a much deserved one-set lead. Rain played a pivotal role, twice in Nadal’s favor, in redirecting the trajectory of this match. Resuming from 3-2 down in the second set, Nadal broke and won three straight games before play was suspended for good. The following day, a thunderous Nadal fired on all cylinders, protecting serve and controlling court positioning, to finish off Schwartzman.