Nadal’s 13 French Open Titles Part Eight - 2013

Leading up to the 2022 French Open, which begins on May 22, this series takes you through Rafael Nadal's 13 French Open titles, which is also the most number of times a player has won a particular Major.

Rafael Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win the same Major eight times by clinching the 2013 French Open title.

Rafael Nadal’s 2013 French Open triumph is special for two reasons. The then 27-year-old Mallorcan’s victory over compatriot David Ferrer in the final made him the first man to win the same Major eight times.

The other reason is that purely in terms of numbers, this was the Spaniard’s trickiest one. Never before 2013 or after it has Nadal dropped four sets en route to glory in Paris. In terms of games lost, only second to 2011 where he lost 96, one more than 2013. Before 2013 and ever since, Nadal has never been taken to four sets in the opening two rounds. His 2013 semifinal was the first and last time he had to battle through five sets to book his place in the final at Roland Garros.

Nadal’s clay-court season prior to 2013 French Open

Nadal’s misfortune around the Australian Open had another chapter added to it. After recovering from a knee injury that kept him out for the second half of 2012, he was forced to withdraw from the first Major of 2013 due to a stomach virus. This also led to him starting his clay-court season in February itself. For the first time since 2005, the Spaniard started his clay season in South America. He began with a loss to Argentine Horacio Zeballos, current World No. 6 in doubles, in the final in Chile before winning the titles in Sao Paulo and Acapulco. 

READ: Nadal’s 13 French Open Titles Part Seven - 2012

He did return to play one hard court - Indian Wells Masters - where his three-set victory in the final over 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro was his 600th career match win while also bringing his first title on the surface in two-and-a-half years.

Here's a compilation of Rafael Nadal's 13 French Open Titles

Nadal's 13 French Open Titles by Sportstar Online

Back on clay, eight-time champion Nadal suffered only his second-ever loss in Monte Carlo as Serbian World No. 1 Novak Djokovic thrashed him 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the summit clash. Like his opponent, Djokovic too had recovered from an injury, a rolled ankle picked up during Serbia's Davis Cup win over the United States two weeks ago. The Serbian was relentless, first taking a 5-0 lead in the opening set and later coming back from 2-4 down in the second to force the tie-breaker. 

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Nadal’s pay dirt

The loss against Djokovic was perhaps a wake up call for Nadal as after that, he went into the French Open without a single defeat. He lifted his eighth title in Barcelona, while also winning Masters events in Madrid and Rome by beating Swiss Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer, respectively in the finals.

2013 French Open

Nadal’s quest for a record-extending eighth title at Roland Garros got off to a nightmarish start. Facing German World No. 59 Daniel Brand in the opening round, he was 4-6, 0-3 down. His only defeat at the clay Major had come in 2009 to Sweden’s Robin Soderling. In moments like these, a stroke of luck can completely change the momentum and that is what happened. Nadal’s whipped forehand took a deflection off the net chord and the German sent his backhand into the net. World No. 4 Nadal won the second set in the tie-break before taking the next two 6-4, 6-3 to progress to the second round. 

"Yes, maybe that was the turning point. I lost a little bit of concentration after the tie-break," Brands said about that backhand into the net after the loss.

READ: Nadal’s 13 French Open Titles Part Six - 2011

His second-round win over Slovakian World No. 35 Martin Klizan wasn’t easy either. Klizan’s blistering play won him the first set 4-6 but he could not sustain the same. Nadal won the next three by the same scoreline of 6-3 to set up a third-round clash with Italian Fabio Fognini. Nadal had breezed past World No. 29 Fognini in the first round of Rome two weeks ago but here, Fognini had earned himself the chance to serve for the first set. He failed to convert that opportunity and paid for it dearly as Nadal won it in the tiebreak before closing out the match in straight sets.

With convincing wins over Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Wawrinka, Nadal booked his place in the final four where his opponent, in a rematch of last year’s final, was Djokovic.

The Nadal vs Djokovic semifinal was billed as the ‘final before the final’ and it lived upto the hype as the King of Clay was stretched to five sets for only the second time in 59 French Open matches.

Both players split the first two sets before Nadal blazed through the third. Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, a win looked all but done for the Mallorcan, Djokovic wasn’t. 

He broke Nadal back and won the tie-breaker to force the deciding fifth set. 


FILE PHOTO: Serbia's Novak Djokovic appeals to chair umpire Pascal Maria after losing a point in the fifth set of the semifinal against Spain's Rafael Nadal as Djokovic ended up running into the net after striking the ball for a high volley. Maria gave Nadal the point because the ball had not yet bounced a second time when Djokovic touched the net.   -  GETTY IMAGES


In the final set, it was the Serbian who had the upper hand when he led by a break at 4-3. However, serving at deuce in the eighth game, he committed an unusual error. “Up by 4-3 in the fifth set, and serving at deuce, Djokovic moved in to knock away a high volley and ended up running into the net after striking the ball for what would have been a winner. Though he protested, the chair umpire, Pascal Maria, applied the rules, giving Nadal the point because the ball had not yet bounced a second time when Djokovic touched the net,” wrote Christopher Clarey in The New York Times.

The two members of the ‘Big Three’ held their serve till 8-8. In the 17th game which proved to be the final one, Djokovic misjudged a forehand pass and overhit two forehands to hand over the victory to Nadal after four hours and 37 minutes.

READ: Nadal’s 13 French Open Titles Part Five - 2010

The summit clash was an all-Spanish affair as Nadal faced his great friend and first-time Grand Slam  finalist David Ferrer. The 31-year-old Ferrer had not dropped a set en route to the final. In the final on the Philippe Chatrier Court, he could not win one.

Nadal brushed aside Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in a little over two hours to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for the fourth year running and overall, eighth time in his career.


FILE PHOTO: Spain's Rafael Nadal looks on as security guards restrain a protester after he lit a flare and ran on court before the start of a game in the Men's Singles final Nadal of Spain and his compatriot David Ferrer during day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2013 in Paris, France.   -  GETTY IMAGES


While the match itself was ordinary, there were extraordinary scenes in the crowd as the final was briefly interrupted following chants from a certain section high in the stands. Moments later, with Nadal leading 5-1 in the second set, things became clear as a bare-chested masked man emerged from the crowd near the umpire’s chair, carrying a flare. The man was protesting against gay marriage in France following the passing of the same-sex marriage bill, which legalised gay adoption. He was tackled by the security and wrestled to the ground shortly.

Rafael Nadal's route to French Open title in 2013

First round: won 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3 against Daniel Brands (GER)

Second round: won 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 against Martin Klizan (SVK)

Third round: won 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 against Fabio Fognini (ITA)

Fourth round: won 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 against Kei Nishikori (JPN)

Quarterfinal: won 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 against Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Semifinal: won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7 against Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Final: won 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 against David Ferrer (ESP)

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