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 a performance in the French capital that saw the Spaniard match Pete Sampras with 14 major trophies.
2014 FRENCH OPEN
Nadal’s leadup to Roland Garros was his most topsy-turvy to date. The world No. 1 was stunned by countrymen David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro in clay tune-ups, then regrouped to triumph in Madrid over Kei Nishikori before being outclassed by Novak Djokovic in the Rome final. For the most part, that didn’t matter. It took a quarterfinal rematch with Ferrer for Nadal to experience tension. After quashing Andy Murray with ease, Nadal faced off against Djokovic for the third year running. The standard didn’t hit the benchmark of the previous year, with Djokovic regrettably double-faulting to conclude matters. The Nadal dynasty broke a tie with Max Decugis for an all-time record ninth French Open title.
Most impressive win: Semifinals; Nadal d. Murray, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1
Three weeks earlier in Rome, Murray collected the opening set 6-1 off Nadal. No one predicted the Brit would amass the same number of games across three sets in Paris. Nadal refused to let up from start to finish, reprimanding Murray’s passive play with a barrage of attacks. He was aggressively accurate with 24 winners to 12 unforced errors in the one-hour-and-40-minute rout.
Closest call: Final; Nadal d. Djokovic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
Djokovic brought a 35-0 record in finals when winning the first set, so when he locked up the opening set over Nadal, many wondered if this was finally his time to shine in Paris. He then erased a 4-2 deficit in the second set, but was unable to force a tiebreaker. Nadal scorched a down-the-line forehand winner to level the match and retained the hotter hand for the majority of the second half, improving his staggering stretch to 66 wins in 67 matches at the event.