Rafael Nadal will vie for an unprecedented 11th Roland Garros title next week, so now seems like the perfect time to look back at his 10 previous victories.
2005: No 1
Ah, who can forget 2005-era Nadal: Long hair, long shorts and clearly a long future ahead in the game.
Bursting onto the scene in 2004 like a bolt out of the blue, Nadal was seeded fifth for his first crack at the French Open crown the following year, having already secured a string of impressive victories – including 24 straight during the 2005 clay court season.
It was obvious he was the real deal on clay; his incredible speed, power and movement around the court combined to particularly devastating effect on the surface. Even at 18 years of age, it seemed like he could chase anything down and return it with interest.
And while it was a four-set victory over Mariano Puerta that would hand him his first Roland Garros crown – on his first try, no less – it was his semi-final win over World No 1 Roger Federer that really paved the way to glory.
2006: No 2
By his second year in Paris, Nadal had firmly established himself as one of the best players in the world, and one who had quite a knack for beating the world’s best player, Roger Federer, at that.
It was an ability that would stand him in good stead in the 2006 Roland Garros final, as he became the first man ever to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam final, prevailing in four tough sets.
Any doubts over Nadal’s claims to greatness were quickly being erased.
2007: No 3
Could anyone stop Nadal from clinching his third straight French Open title the following year?
The answer was a resounding no. While he was yet to be dubbed the King of Clay, it’s clear Nadal was already a Prince in waiting.
Once again, the most dominant player in the world – Roger Federer – showed he could not match Nadal on his favourite surface, as the Spaniard clinched a 6–3, 4–6, 6–3, 6–4 to make it three in a row.
2008: No 4
In 2008, Nadal became only the fourth male player during the Open era to win the same Grand Slam singles tournament four consecutive years, joining all-time greats Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer.
He defeated Federer in the final for the third straight year, but this time it was barely a contest, and it was all over in straight sets.
After also defeating Federer in the Wimbledon final later that year, he became the World No 1 for the first time in his career.
The times they were a changin’.
2010: No 5
After 2009’s unexpected fourth-round loss to Robin Söderling, Nadal returned with a vengeance in Paris the following year.
Facing Söderling again – this time in the final – there was to be no repeat of the previous year’s failure.
2011: No 6
Nadal’s sixth Roland Garros crown would come after another victory over Federer in the final.
The Swiss ace would later admit that his series of “crushing” losses to Nadal on clay may have dented his confidence and cost him a few more titles elsewhere too.
2012: No 7
More change was in the wind by the time the 2012 French Open rolled around. With Federer’s star waning (it would later rise again), a new force in world tennis had well and truly emerged. His name? Novak Djokovic.
Nadal already knew all about him, of course. The Spaniard had made it to the finals of the last three Grand Slams – Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian – and had lost to Djokovic every time.
But it was a different story on clay. Nadal defeated Djokovic in three tight sets to clinch his seventh Roland Garros title. He was now the most successful male player in French Open history.
And he also wasn’t done.
2013: No 8
Nadal won the 2013 French Open after beating Novak Djokovic in the semifinal and David Ferrer in the final, breaking the record for the most match wins in the tournament in the process with win No 59.
While the victory over Ferrer secured him the trophy, it was the win over Djokovic in the semi-finals that will go down in history as one of the greatest Grand Slam matches ever played, as Nadal came back from down a break in the fifth set to prevail.
2014: No 9
In 2014, Nadal defeated Djokovic 3–6, 7–5, 6–2, 6–4 in another pulsating clash between these two titans to win his ninth French Open title.
The victory came not a moment too soon, as Nadal would soon be forced to the sidelines with a wrist injury, starting a pattern of similar problems that would continue well into 2015 and beyond.
2017: No 10
You can’t keep a good man down, especially when that man is Rafael Nadal and the French Open is at hand.
Having overcome his injury struggles and battled back from two winless years in Paris, normal service was resumed in 2017 as Nadal defeated Stan Wawrinka in straight sets to clinch an almost unbelievable 10th title.
In Spain, it was dubbed ‘La Décima’ (the tenth) and it made Nadal the first male or female in the Open era to win ten titles in a single Grand Slam tournament.
The craziest thing of all? He has every chance of making it 11 in a couple of weeks’ time.