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 seventh triumph in the French capital, which surpassed Bjorn Borg's mark.
2012 FRENCH OPEN
Since hoisting the Coupe des Mousquetaires the previous year, Nadal abruptly found himself playing second fiddle to Novak Djokovic. The Serb outfoxed Nadal in the next three major finals, culminating with the longest Grand Slam final ever at the Australian Open. A return to the red dirt refreshed Nadal, snapping a skid of seven successive losses to Djokovic (all finals) in Monte Carlo. Nadal won again in Rome to set the scene for Paris, and it was no surprise to see the pair meet on championship Sunday. With history on the line for both men, Nadal proved Court Philippe Chatrier was still his kingdom, becoming the tournament’s Open Era men’s title leader.
Most impressive win: Final; Nadal d. Djokovic, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
Nadal generated notable routs over Juan Monaco in the round of 16 and David Ferrer in the semifinals, but clearing the mental barrier by vanquishing Djokovic on the Grand Slam final stage was most compelling. A seventh title seemed well within reach, but Djokovic—playing with nothing to lose after going down two sets and 2-0—ascended with intensified aggression to claim the next eight games. A second rain delay pushed play to Monday, and when the players returned, it was advantage Nadal. The second seed immediately broke back, and his execution for the duration was a notch above Djokovic, who ultimately double-faulted to end his bid.
Closest call: Final; Nadal d. Djokovic, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
It took 21 sets for someone to get the best of Nadal. For Djokovic, the third set was indicative of the audacious, assertive play that guided him to the top of the ATP rankings and a shot at capturing four consecutive Grand Slam titles.