Juan Carlos Ferrero won his first and only Major title at Roland Garros 2003. His young compatriot Rafael Nadal turned 17 during the fortnight, and he would have joined Ferrero in the draw had he not been injured, already ranked well inside the top-100!
Seventeen years later, Nadal became the 13-time Roland Garros champion, dominating the clay Major like no one ever before him and writing the record books that will never be repeated. Rafa made the debut in Paris in 2005 and conquered the title, setting the tone for the following 15 years and winning 100 out of 102 Parisian encounters.
Instead of its usual spot in the calendar, Roland Garros took place in October last year, with rainy and cold conditions, new balls and a roof above Court Philippe-Chatrier. Passing all those obstacles, Rafa beat all seven rivals in straight sets to extend his reign and stand strong at 34.
The Spaniard suffered only eight breaks in seven encounters, working hard against Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic to lift the trophy and join Roger Federer on 20 Major titles. In the clash of titans (Novak was chasing the 18th Major crown), Nadal ousted Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in two hours and 41 minutes, performing at his best and leaving the rival three Major crowns behind him!
Speaking about the match, Ferrero said he wasn't surprised by the outcome, praising his compatriot and calling him the greatest competitor in Roland Garros history.
Rafael Nadal lost seven games against Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros.
Rafa had 31 winners and 14 unforced errors, controlling his strokes nicely and stealing 51% of the return points to earn seven breaks from 18 opportunities.
Djokovic couldn't find his A-game for over two hours, spraying 50 unforced errors and failing to match Nadal's pace in sets one and two. Rafa destroyed Novak in the shortest range up to four strokes, which proved crucial since they stayed close to each other in the more advanced exchanges.
Determined to impose his shots right from the start, Rafa clinched a break in the encounter's first game when Novak's backhand landed long. The Spaniard seized another at 2-0 and painted a backhand crosscourt winner at 4-0 to extend the gap.
Rafa held at 15 in game six to wrap up the opener with a bagel, still needing 41 minutes to achieve that. The defending champion earned two breaks in set number two and held at 30 in game eight with a service winner to forge a 6-0, 6-2 advantage in an hour and 34 minutes, making another big step towards victory.
They stayed neck and neck until 5-5 in the third set after trading breaks, with Novak hitting a double fault in that 11th game to lose serve and propel Rafa towards the title following another commanding hold a few minutes later.