Rafael Nadal claimed his first Roland Garros title in 2005, with the 14th and lastest coming in 2022. The famous football player Zinedine Zidane was involved in both, presenting the trophy to Rafa in 2005 and watching him a year ago.
A teenager debuted in Paris in 2005, standing as one of the favorites and proving that against Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta. Zidane had the honor of presenting Rafa with his first Major trophy. Seventeen years later, Nadal was still among the players to beat in Paris, seeking his 14th Roland Garros crown in June 2022.
Rafa played against Botic Van De Zandschulp in the third round, and Zidane was there to watch him. Nadal played well on Court Suzanne-Lenglen and scored a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 triumph. Nadal needed two hours and 11 minutes to emerge at the top and advance into the last 16 for the 17th time in 18 trips to the French capital.
Rafa claimed 40 out of 46 points behind the first serve, getting broken two times from three chances offered to his rival. Botic could not take advantage of them after dropping almost half the points behind the initial shot.
Zinedine Zidane watched Rafael Nadal at the last year's Roland Garros.
The Dutch player suffered six breaks from 12 chances offered to the Spaniard, failing to make a comeback in the third set's closing stages. Rafa fired 25 winners and 13 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely in the opening two sets.
Nadal built a massive lead in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, and Van De Zandschulp followed his pace in the most prolonged rallies. Botic kicked off the action with a break of serve in the encounter's first game, and Rafa pulled it back instantly for 1-1.
Nadal forged a 4-2 lead with a break in game six and forced the rival's mistake with a mighty forehand in the next one. The Spaniard closed the opener with a service winner at 5-3 after 35 minutes. Rafa stormed over his opponent in set number two, delivering one good hold after another and keeping the pressure on the other side.
He broke Van De Zandschulp in the third game and extended the advantage with another at 3-1 after a forehand crosscourt winner. Botic saved a set point on his serve in game seven before Rafa closed the set with an ace a few minutes later for 6-3, 6-2.
The Spaniard raced into a 4-0 lead in the third set with a double break, looking good to seal the deal before losing ground a bit. Nadal allowed Van De Zandschulp to reduce the deficit to 5-4 with a hold at 15 in game nine.
A 13-time champion served for the match in game ten and created a match point with a volley winner. Botic denied it and earned a break chance that Rafa saved with a service winner. The Spaniard grabbed the third match point with a smash winner for a place in the last 16 in front of one of the greatest football players.