Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Part Nine - 2014

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.

With his title run in 2014, Rafael Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win five consecutive French Opens.

A back injury during the year’s first Major, the constantly irritating pain thereafter forcing him to serve slower and worrying form, not much was in favour of Rafael Nadal when he entered the 2014 French Open. 

Yet, when he did eventually lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for a record-extending ninth time on June 8, perhaps, the only man who was surprised by the triumph was the winner himself.

For Nadal playing best-of-five sets tennis on the red clay at Roland Garros was a combination that had failed only once in the last decade.

Nadal’s clay-court season prior to 2014 French Open

Nadal’s first clay-court event in 2014 was the inaugural Rio Open. Returning after a back injury sustained during a four-set loss to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final three weeks ago, Nadal dispatched compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-5 in the first round in the Brazilian capital. He followed it up with straight-sets wins over fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes (6-1, 6-2) and Portugal’s Joao Sousa (6-1, 6-0) before facing a third countryman in World No. 40 Pablo Andujar in the semifinal.

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FILE PHOTO: Spain's Rafael Nadal (right) congratulates Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka (left) for winning the 2014 Australian Open title.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Andujar broke Nadal twice in the first set to take it 6-2 before Nadal bounced back to win the second 6-3. Andujar was on the brink of becoming the first man to beat Nadal in a clay-court semifinal since his loss to present day coach Carlos Moya as a teenager in Umag in 2003.

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

Nadal's 13 French Open Titles by Sportstar Online

Andujar had two match points in the third set tie-breaker but Nadal saved both before prevailing 12-10. “It was close because he played well, and I didn't play my best. The tiebreak was a lottery, but I played it better than the rest of the match," Nadal said after the match.

READ: Nadal’s 13 French Open Titles Part Eight - 2013

The final was a more comfortable affair for Nadal as he defeated Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-6 (3) to lift the trophy.

No one knew then that Rio would be one of only two clay-court titles Nadal would win in the lead up to the 2014 French Open.

In the European clay-court season of 2014, Nadal suffered defeats in places he had ruled for almost a decade. In Monte Carlo, where he had won the title eight times in a row before Djokovic beat him in the final in 2013, the Spaniard (awarded bye in first round) faced no difficulty in getting past Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili and Italian Andreas Seppi in the second and third rounds. The win over Seppi was Nadal’s 50th in Monte Carlo and 300th overall on clay. However, in the quarterfinal, Nadal was stunned 6-7 (1), 4-6 by World No. 6 David Ferrer, his first loss on clay to his compatriot since Stuttgart in 2004.

If it was Monte Carlo in 2013, in 2014 it was Barcelona.

Eight-time champion, Nadal suffered his first-ever defeat in the Catalonian capital since 2003. In a repeat of the 2013 final, Nadal was up against fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals. World No. 20 Almagro had never beaten Nadal in their previous 10 meetings, while managing to take only two sets. But on April 25, 2014, Almagro finally got that elusive win. After a 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory, he said, “I think I played a really good match against the best player on that surface and that victory could be a really important victory in my career.”

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FILE PHOTO: Spain's Rafael Nadal consoles Japan's Kei Nishikori after he was forced to retire during the 2014 Madrid Open final.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The following week, Nadal looked set to lose in Madrid as well. In the final against the Spaniard, Japanese World No. 12 Kei Nishikori was leading 6-2, 4-3 when he injured his back during his service game. Nishikori lost the second set 4-6 and was trailing 0-3 in the decider when decided to retire from the match. Nadal, who had just won his fourth Madrid Masters, sympathised with his younger opponent. He said, “I suffered a similar situation in Australia this year. So I know what I'm talking about and how bitter it is, especially when you're playing an important match.”

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

Nadal’s final clay-court event before heading to Paris was the Italian Open. The struggling left-hander had to play gruelling three-set duels against French Gilles Simon [7-6 (1), 6-7 (4), 6-2], Russian Mikhail Youzhny [6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1] and British World No. 8 Andy Murray (1-6, 6-3, 7-5) on his route to the final against Serbian World No. 2 Novak Djokovic. Nadal blitzed to a 5-1 lead in the opening set before Djokovic turned the tie on its head. The Serbian defeated Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to lift the title and go to Paris with a psychological advantage in case they faced each other again, which they eventually did.

2014 French Open

Defending champion and top seed Nadal received a fairly comfortable draw for the initial rounds. Putting his pre-2014 Roland Garros clay-court struggles behind, he started his campaign by hammering American wildcard and 2005 US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0.

In the second round, Nadal’s opponent was Austrian Dominic Thiem, a player he would go on to face in the French Open finals in 2018 and 2019. However, in 2014, a 20-year-old Thiem hardly posed any threat and went down 2-6, 2-6, 3-6 to the Spaniard. 

Nadal matched his 31-match unbeaten streak at Roland Garros with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win over Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the third round before he revealed that the back pain had started bothering him again and forcing him to serve slower.

The win against Mayer was followed by an act of pure emotion, kindness and respect. “After the match, Nadal led the crowd in their applause for Jérôme Golmard, who was watching the match in a wheelchair. The 40-year-old Frenchman, a former world No 22, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier in the year. He has set up a fund to help fight the disease,” reported The Independent.

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

Nadal brushed aside Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth round to set up the quarterfinal against Ferrer in a repeat of 2013 summit clash. Ferrer, perhaps buoyed by the Monte Carlo win, started on a positive note and took the opening set 6-4. From there, it was pretty much Nadal all the way as he first levelled things up by winning the second set 6-4 before running away with the next two 6-0, 6-1. 

In the final four clash against Murray, the Mallorcan played a near perfect game winning the tie 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in just one hour 40 minutes, a ridiculously short duration for a Grand Slam semifinal.

For the second time in three years, Nadal’s final opponent was Djokovic.

Second-seeded Djokovic had received a comparatively tougher draw but apart from his third-round match against Croatian Marin Cilic, he easily dominated every player he faced.

Djokovic went into the final having beaten Nadal in their last four meetings - ATP500 Beijing final and final of the ATP Finals in 2013, and Miami and Rome Final in 2014. But unlike those four matches, this was a Grand Slam match and Djokovic was 0-5 against Nadal at Roland Garros.

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FILE PHOTO: Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the men's singles final against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the 2014 French Open.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The Serbian took the first set (6-3) in the final on the Philippe Chatrier court by breaking Nadal’s serve in the ninth game. Both players struggled to hold serve in the second set which Nadal managed to win 7-5. 

Both players were putting ice-stuffed towels around their necks on changeovers but perhaps, the heat affected Djokovic more than it did Nadal.

Djokovic, who needed to match the spirit from his 2013 semifinal defeat where he stretched the Spaniard to five sets, looked weary and crumbled losing the next two sets 2-6, 4-6. 

Nadal became the first man to win the French Open title for five consecutive years. He also managed to retain his No. 1 ranking with the triumph.

“It was a very hard moment, so today the tennis give me back what happened in Australia,” Nadal said after the final.

Rafael Nadal's route to French Open title in 2014

First round: won 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 against Robby Ginepri (USA)

Second round: won 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 against Dominic Thiem (AUT)

Third round: won 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 against Leonardo Mayer (ARG)

Fourth round: won 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 against Dusan Lajovic (SRB)

Quarterfinal: won 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 against David Ferrer (ESP)

Semifinal: won 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 against Andy Murray (GBR)

Final: won 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 against Novak Djokovic (SRB)

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