In the previous three seasons, Nadal was the player to beat alongside Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, battling hard in the GOAT race and adding the 20th Major to his tally last Sunday at Roland Garros. It was the 13th and the most challenging title in Paris for Rafa, competing only for the second time since February, in what had been entirely different conditions than in May and June.
Nadal had to beat the Parisian cold and rainy weather alongside seven opponents, the new Wilson balls and a roof above Court Philippe-Chatrier, passing all those obstacles to claim the title without dropping a set at 34!
In his interview with the ATP, Nadal said it was the most challenging title he has ever won in Paris, experiencing tough conditions and competing only for the second time since February. Rafa won the title in Acapulco in February, staying at home in Mallorca for the next six months and restarting the season in Rome in September.
The Spaniard didn't pick a racquet in March and April, taking a break from tennis and hitting the practice court in May. Rafa decided to skip Cincinnati and the US Open where he was the defending champion, working on clay and securing another title at Roland Garros to join Roger Federer on 20 Majors.
Nadal's coach Carlos Moya said they had many issues after such a long break, focusing on bringing back the old Rafa who loves the competition. Gradually, they had achieved that just in time for Paris where Nadal competed on a high level, winning all matches in straight sets and defeating Novak Djokovic in the title match.
Rafael Nadal explained why it was so challenging to win Paris this year.
It was one of the most important encounters of the 21st century and Nadal was the player to beat, outplaying Djokovic in every department to march towards the crown.
Rafa toppled Novak 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes, getting broken once and delivering seven breaks to control the result. Nadal stormed over Djokovic in the opening two sets, playing aggressive tennis and dominating with his groundstrokes to leave the world's leading player with no answer.
In the third, they traded breaks in games five and six before Nadal grabbed another at 5-5 that secured the victory for him. "Every time I come to Paris, I don't think I'm going to win. I arrive excited that I might do it, but knowing that the most logical outcome is that I don't.
Winning is not normal, and I'm always very aware of that. As I said from the first day, this year was the most unfavorable Roland Garros I have played in, first because of the conditions and second because my preparation was practically non-existent in terms of tournaments," Rafael Nadal said.