Rafael Nadal has won 13 titles from 16 Parisian trips, writing the Roland Garros record books and dominating like no one before him at a single Major. Still, the Spaniard had to work hard to earn some of those triumphs, mentioning 2011 and 2020 as his most challenging campaigns en route to the title.
Following that shocking 2009 defeat to Robin Soderling, Nadal claimed the fifth Roland Garros crown in 2010, ousting the Swede in the title match. A year later, Rafa added the sixth Roland Garros trophy to his tally, becoming the second player with that many Majors won in Paris after Bjorn Borg.
Like in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Nadal beat Roger Federer in the title match, lifting the tenth Major trophy right after the 25th birthday! Rafa didn't like the conditions and balls that year in Paris, struggling already in the first round against John Isner before scoring a 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 victory!
Nadal had to spend almost three hours and 20 minutes on the court against the fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the second round before scoring a 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 win. Andujar created 16 break opportunities and converted five, still failing to take at least a set, as Nadal won the crucial points to prevail and avoid a possible five-hour marathon.
In the semis, Rafa had to battle hard to survive the Andy Murray challenge in three hours and 17 minutes, repelling 15 out of 18 break chances against the opponent who pushed him to the limits in one of his finest Parisian displays.
Saving enough energy for the title clash, Rafa took down Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 in three hours and 40 minutes for a milestone Major title. The Spaniard overcame a 5-2 deficit in the first set and prevailed in the second for a massive lead against the most significant rival, who was ready to challenge him following that epic semi-final victory over Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal spoke about his toughest Roland Garros campaigns.
Roger claimed the third set but had nothing more left in the tank, taking only one game in set number four to hand the trophy to Rafa, who passed all the obstacles in Paris that year to extend the reign.
In 2020, Rafa claimed the 13th Roland Garros crown at 34, beating all rivals in straight sets but working hard to achieve that. The event took place in October, and the Spaniard had to deal with cold weather, new Wilson balls and a roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Rising to the occasion, Rafa toppled all seven rivals in straight sets, getting broken only eight times and dominating the return to secure the 20th Major crown. The Spaniard had to dig deep against Jannik Sinner in the quarter and the third set against Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic, passing all the obstacles and beating the Serb 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the title clash.
"My toughest Roland Garros challenges came in 2011 and 2020, two very difficult years for me. The season behind us was the most unexpected in terms of Parisian conditions. I suffer a lot when I play during cold weather; my body doesn't like it.
Also, my shots were less effective during my first training and matches. Little by little, I made improvements and got ready for the title clash against Novak, knowing I can play at maximum," Rafael Nadal said.