Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Part Eleven - 2018

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 matched Margaret Court's all-time record of winning a single Major the most number of times by clinching his 11th French Open title in 2018.

“If you tell me, seven, eight years ago, that I will be here with 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that it is something almost impossible but here we are.” 

- Spain’s Rafael Nadal after achieving the La Undecima (Spanish for the 11th) on June 10, 2018.

The Mallorcan had just won his 11th French Open title, matching Margaret Court’s all-time record for the most number of times a player had won a singles Major, and the tears showed how much the clay Major still meant to him.

Incidentally, the memories of his 11 titles would take on a slightly different tone from here on because after the final, the iconic Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros was demolished to redevelop it with a roof.

Nadal’s clay-court season prior to 2018 French Open

As had been the case on five previous occasions in the past 11 years, Nadal’s hard court season had his body betraying him yet again at Australian Open. He was forced to retire midway through his quarterfinal against Croatian World No. 6 Marin Cilic due to a hip injury after being down 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 0-2. The World No. 1 Spaniard did not set his foot on a tennis court for the next two months.

 

When he returned in April, it was Spain’s Davis Cup quarterfinal against Germany on his beloved clay in Valencia. Nadal won both his singles in straight sets against Philipp Kohlschreiber (6-2, 6-2, 6-3) and Alexander Zverev (6-1 ,6-4, 6-4) in Spain’s 3-2 victory. "Coming back from injuries is always difficult, but it's great to be in front of my crowd on a very memorable day," Nadal told ESPN after his win over Kohlschreiber.

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

Nadal's 13 French Open Titles by Sportstar Online

After a successful national duty, the Spaniard started his preparation for a record-extending 11th French Open triumph with a stunning 11th Monte Carlo Masters title. Nadal did not lose more than four games in a set in any of his five matches against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, Russian Karen Khachanov, Austrian Dominic Thiem, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Japanese Kei Nishikori. It was his fifth title in Monaco which had come without dropping a set.

Nadal’s blistering run carried on as he clinched his 11th title in Barcelona the following week in the same manner - no sets dropped. 

READ: Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Part Ten - 2017

It looked highly likely that Nadal would lift the trophy in Madrid too as he brushed aside Frenchman Gael Monfils and Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the second and third rounds, respectively. The Spaniard had won 50 consecutive sets on clay, breaking John McEnroes’s Open Era record for most sets won in a row on a single surface, before his quarterfinal against Thiem. The Austrian was the last man to beat Nadal on clay when he had won in the quarterfinals of Rome Masters in 2017. One year later, Thiem ended that drought himself in a 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal victory under two hours in Madrid. The loss, albeit briefly, cost Nadal his No. 1 ranking which went to his long-time rival Switzerland’s Roger Federer.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: French Open 2018 - Relentless Rafa, resilient Halep reign supreme

In the final event before Roland Garros, Nadal clinched his eighth Italian Open title. However, unlike Monte Carlo and Barcelona, this one did not come so easily. After his win over Fabio Fognini in the second round of Madrid Masters in 2017, Nadal admitted that the Italian had always been a tough opponent to face on clay. 

It was not without reason as Fognini, playing in front of a home crowd in Rome, came back from 1-4 down to take the opening set 6-4 in the quarterfinal against Nadal before the Spaniard breezed through the next two winning them 6-1, 6-2.

Nadal followed up the win over Fognini by beating Serbian Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the semi final. It was a high quality contest despite Djokovic coming back after a long injury.

In the final, Nadal beat defending champion Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 to win his first Italian Open title since 2013.

2018 French Open

Defending champion and top seed Nadal began his campaign by almost dropping a set in the very first round itself. Facing Italian Simone Bolelli, the Mallorcan grabbed the first two sets 6-4, 6-3 but was trailing 0-3 in the third when play was suspended due to rain. Next day, Nadal forced his way back, taking the set to a tie-breaker before trailing 3-6 in it. Bolelli failed to capitalise any of the four set point chances that he had and Nadal won the tiebreaker 11-9.

The next three rounds were much more comfortable for the Spaniard as he got past Argentine Guido Pella, local favourite Richard Gasquet and German Maximilian Marterer (his 900th career match win).

READ: Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Part Nine - 2014

In the quarterfinal, Nadal was up against Schwartzman, who had stretched him to four sets at the Australian Open, earlier in the year. The 5’7” Argentine broke Nadal’s run of 37 straight sets at Roland Garros by his aggressive style to lead 6-4. In the second, too, Nadal trailed before moving ahead at 5-3 when it started raining over the Philippe-Chatrier Court, suspending play.

When play resumed the next day, it was vintage Nadal as he quickly wrapped up the second 6-3 and bagged the next two by the identical scoreline of 6-2 to reach the semifinals.

Nadal sailed through the final four clash against the then World No. 6 and another Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro as he took the 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win in just two hours 14 minutes. “If you lose, you lose. But I’m going to play with my highest passion, my love for the sport. I have a lot of injuries and I know the years are going quick. I love the competition, I love the sport. If it was not that way, I would not be here,” Nadal told The Guardian after beating del Potro.

From the other half of the draw, Thiem had to battle all the way through to the final. The Austrian had tough four-set victories over Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, Italian Matteo Berrettini and Nishikori. While his semifinal win against Italian underdog Marco Cecchinato (who had taken Djokovic out in quarters) came in straight sets, it was anything but easy for the first two sets. 

The stage was set for Nadal and Thiem’s third meeting at Roland Garros. The Spaniard had won the fourth-round match in 2014 and the semifinal in 2017 in straight sets.

 

The 2018 duel was the summit clash and was longer than their previous two but the result probably showed that Thiem still had work to do if he had to defeat Nadal in a best-of-five sets match. 

Nadal triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours 42 minutes to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for a record-extending 11th time. 

Rafael Nadal's route to French Open title in 2018

First round: won 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9) against Simone Bolelli (ITA)

Second round: won 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 against Guido Pella (ARG)

Third round: won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 against Richard Gasquet (FRA)

Fourth round: won 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) against Maximilian Marterer (GER)

Quarterfinal: won 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 against Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Semifinal: won 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 against Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

Final: won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 against Dominic Thiem (AUT)

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :