At 34, Rafael Nadal is still the player to beat at Roland Garros. The Spaniard claimed the 13th title in Paris in October, beating all rivals in straight sets to write history books and extending his record in Paris to a staggering 100-2!
Rafa won the Parisian trophy on debut in 2005, just after turning 19, losing only one match at his beloved Major before 2015 and conquering nine titles between 2005-14. In his worst years, Nadal was plagued with injuries in 2015 and 2016, staying away from Major trophies and bouncing back in 2017 to kick off his second Parisian reign that still stands.
In the last four years, Nadal has lost three sets (!!) in 21 encounters at Roland Garros, increasing his Major tally and joining Roger Federer at the top of the GOAT race with 20 crowns. In 2018 and 2019, Rafa defeated Dominic Thiem in the title matches.
The former Italian player Paolo Bertolucci believes Nadal should maintain the edge over the Austrian in Paris in the next couple of years and win more titles. Alongside seven rivals, Nadal had to battle with challenging conditions at this year's Roland Garros, playing only three encounters since March and dealing with cold weather and a roof above Philippe-Chatrier court.
The Spaniard suffered only eight breaks in seven matches, crumbling the opponents on both serve and return and sailing towards the 13th trophy. In the first week, Rafa ousted Egor Gerasimov, Mackenzie McDonald, Stefano Travaglia and Sebastian Korda with ease, getting broken once and dropping 23 games - ten against Gerasimov in the opening match - in 12 sets to find himself in the last eight.
Nadal had to raise his level to overpower the young Italian Jannik Sinner, losing serve twice and finding himself 6-5 down in the opener. The 12-time Roland Garros champion broke back in the last moment and won the tie break, prevailing in the second and shifting into a higher gear in the third to advance into the semis and set another challenging clash.
Paolo Bertolucci believes that Rafael Nadal can win more Roland Garros titles.
Unlike in Rome, Diego Schwartzman stood no chance against Rafa in Paris, as Nadal secured the opening two sets 6-3, 6-3 before wasting the lead in the third.
Schwartzman gained momentum in the second part of the set to reach a tie break that Nadal clinched 7-0 to advance into the final in style. World no. 1 Novak Djokovic stood between Rafael Nadal and another Roland Garros title, and couldn't match the Spaniard's level.
Like those before him, Novak had nothing to offer against an in-form Rafa, who secured a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in two hours and 41 minutes! Nadal had 31 winners and 14 unforced errors, performed strongly from both wings and stole 51% of the return points to control the scoreboard and sail towards the trophy.
Novak sprayed 52 unforced errors, struggling to find his best tennis for over two hours and suffering a massive loss despite a solid effort in the third set. Rafa gave serve away once, keeping Novak's return away from the court and destroying him in the shortest rallies up to four strokes.
Nadal delivered a bagel in the opening set, playing almost flawless tennis and granting three breaks against the world's leading player to seal it with an ace after 45 minutes. Rafa faced no break chances in set number two and outplayed Novak on the return for another rock-solid set of tennis and a 6-0, 6-2 advantage after an hour and 34 minutes.
Eager to avoid disaster, Djokovic saved a break chance in the third set's third game and raised his level. Rafa broke him at love in game five and gave the serve away for the only time a few minutes later to keep the Serb alive.
Nadal held comfortably in the remaining games and earned a break at 5-5 after a double fault from Novak before moving over the top with a hold at love for a massive celebration of the 20th Major title.