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 2013 fortnight in the French capital, which nearly ended in the semifinals and later saw him break new ground.
2013 FRENCH OPEN
Stade Roland Garros was the last place Nadal experienced jubilation in 2012, as a left-knee injury sidelined him for seven months following Wimbledon. His return was nearly note-perfect; he came to Paris on a 15-match win streak. The three-time defending titlist was promptly pressed by unlikely candidates he was playing for the first time, Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan, before his knee sat for its final examination in an enthralling semifinal with Djokovic. Like a boxing match, each traded blows and battled back from hefty bruising until Djokovic had endured enough, and Nadal transferred that punishing panache to an imperious final performance against Ferrer. On that June 9th, Nadal became the first men’s player in the Open Era to win the same major tournament eight times.
Most impressive win: Semifinals; Nadal d. Djokovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7
Popcorn was popping for this one. Djokovic was the one man who beat Nadal in the European clay swing (Monte Carlo final) and Nadal responded with 20 consecutive wins. Reminiscent of their 2012 Melbourne epic, this collision brought plenty of ‘suffering’ through its grueling exchanges, sensational scrambling and plot twists that tugged at both hearts perpetually pouring out every ounce of passion on the court. Resembling two marathon leaders, the two pushed forward—and after four hours and 37 minutes, it was Nadal who reached the finish line first.
Closest call: Semifinals; Nadal d. Djokovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7
Nadal was six points from exiting. An unfathomable miscue by Djokovic would change everything. Serving at 4-3, deuce, the Serb put away an overhead but stumbled, touching the net to concede the point. The consequences were monumental, as his lead soon evaporated and he found himself serving from behind.