Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Final Part - 2020

This is the final part of a 13-part series covering Rafael Nadal's 13 French Open titles, which is also the most number of times a player has won a particular Major. The 2022 French Open begins tomorrow.

Rafael Nadal's victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2020 French Open final not only sealed his 13th title at Roland Garros but it also helped him become the first man to claim 100 match wins at the clay Major.

In 2020, the world came face to face with the fatal COVID-19 virus. The pandemic affected every walk of life and the sporting world was no different. It was the year of lockdowns, with sporting action suspended for months before it eventually resumed behind closed doors.

For tennis, it meant a reshuffle in the chronological order in which the Slams were played, with Wimbledon and many other events being cancelled altogether.

Roland Garros was rescheduled to late September with a much shortened clay court season leading up to it. The conditions were much colder in Paris and barely any spectators were allowed at the clay Major. Another new feature was the Philippe Chatrier Court having a retractable roof.

After all this, one thing that remained constant - Rafael Nadal was the French Open champion.

 

 It was the Spaniard’s 13th French Open title and 20th Major overall, bringing him on level terms with his great rival Roger Federer at the top of the men’s list.

Nadal’s season prior to 2020 French Open

Nadal’s 2020 season started at the inaugural ATP Cup - an outdoor hard court men’s team event. In the Spain vs Serbia final in Sydney on January 12, World No. 1 Nadal lost his singles match to World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in straight sets which paved the way for Serbia’s 2-1 win.

A week later, Nadal was in Melbourne for the Australian Open. At the first Major of the year, held during the raging bushfire crisis, Nadal won his first three matches without dropping a set. In the fourth round, the Spaniard was set to face local favourite Nick Kyrgios in the duo’s first meeting on a hard court since the Australian upset Nadal in Acapulco in 2019.

READ: French Open 2022: Dates, form guide, prize money, most titles and all you need to know

Nadal won that fourth round match against Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) but only after he had been on court for three hours and 38 minutes, courtesy of error-strewn games from both players.

The preparation wasn’t ideal for a quarterfinal clash with Dominic Thiem, who had beaten Frenchman Gael Monfils in straight sets in his third round tie. The Austrian got redemption for 2019 Roland Garros final loss by beating Nadal 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) in a little over four hours. The loss cost Nadal his number one ranking.

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

Nadal's 13 French Open Titles by Sportstar Online
 

The Mallorcan next played three weeks later in Acapulco, winning the title for the third time with a comfortable win over American Taylor Fritz in the final.

As it turned out, the Mexican Open was among the last set of ATP Tour events before the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to hold another tournament till late August.

The sport resumed with Cincinnati Masters followed by US Open in the first week of September, but Nadal and many others did not participate at Flushing Meadows citing safety concerns related to the deadly virus.

READ: Nadal's 13 French Open Titles Part Twelve - 2019

Seven months after last holding a racquet in a professional tennis match, Nadal came back on clay at the Italian Open. Awarded a bye in the first round, Nadal dispatched compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta and Serbian Dusan Lajovic in straight sets before facing Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinal. The 5’7” Argentine stunned nine-time champion Nadal 6-2, 7-5 to get his first victory over the Spaniard in 10 meetings.

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FILE PHOTO: Rafael Nadal congratulates Diego Schwartzman after his quarter-final win at the Italian Open at Foro Italico on September 19, 2020 in Rome, Italy.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

“[It was] a super heavy evening in terms of humidity. Conditions out there were much heavier than the previous days in terms of the bounces of the ball. For me it was difficult to push him back. He did a great job,” Nadal told atptour.com after the loss.

“I tried hard in the second, but losing serve three times in a row, then you need to [hope] for a miracle. I did twice, but the third one, even if I was 15/30, was not possible.”

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The Italian Open was Nadal’s one and only event on clay before the 2020 Roland Garros which began the following week. For the first time in his career, the Spaniard headed to the French Open without a clay court title in his pocket in the same season, although this was a season like no other.

2020 French Open

Originally scheduled to be held from May 24 to June 7, the 2020 French Open was initially postponed to September 20 due to the pandemic before being moved a week further.

Nadal had criticised the organisers for conditions at the rescheduled tournament which involved a shift from the lighter Babolat ball to the heavier Wilson ball, a change which made his forehand less vicious. However, when the 12-time champion stepped on to the Philippe Chatrier Court in front of merely 200 fans for his first-round match, it was business as usual for him. Nadal beat Belarusian Egor Gerasimov in straight sets in two hours. The second-seeded Spaniard’s next three matches were part of the procession as he blitzed past American Mackenzie McDonald, Italian Stefano Travaglia and McDonald’s younger compatriot Sebastian Korda.

In the quarterfinals, Nadal faced Jannick Sinner, a promising Italian teenager who became the first man since Nadal in 2005 to reach the final eight stage on French Open debut. Sinner proved to be the first real test for Nadal as the bold youngster played fearlessly and earned the opportunity to serve for the opening set at 6-5. This is where his inexperience cost him.

“Sinner appeared determined to show he was unafraid of the Nadal forehand, but he fed it too many times and he eventually paid for it as he played Nadal’s biggest strength into a rhythm. Nadal finished the game with two searing down-the-line forehands. After breaking serve, he took the first set on a tie-break,” wrote Tumaini Carayol in The Guardian.

 

Sinner again had a 3-1 lead in the second set but the Mallorcan won five of the next six games to put the match beyond the youngster’s reach. Nadal strolled through the third set to reach the semifinals…….at 1:26 AM in the morning.

His final four stage opponent, Schwartzman, had a far worse route as the Argentine just managed to outlast Thiem 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a five-hour long battle.

In the semifinal, Schwartzman was unable to replicate his performance from the Italian Open quarterfinal win against Nadal. Although he did have a late surge, Schwartzman went down 3-6, 3-6, 6-7 (0) to Nadal.

Victory over Schwartzman was Nadal’s 99th at Roland Garros. He had a rare opportunity to complete the century of wins as well as lift a record-extending 13th French Open title but for that, he had to beat World No. 1 Djokovic.

The Serbian had made it to the final after defeating a stubborn Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in a little under four hours in the semis. “Of course I will bring a lot of passion and try to win on Sunday,” Djokovic said after his win over the Greek while adding, “but he has won so many times here, but he might still have the memory from 2015 when I beat him in the quarter-final. So I have some hope.”

Djokovic had not suffered defeat in a complete Grand Slam match all year. He had beaten Thiem in a five-setter to clinch his eighth Australian Open title. At the US Open, he had a moment of madness during his fourth-round match against Carreno Busta when out of frustration, he hit a ball that struck a line judge in the throat. The Serbian became the first ever top-seeded player to be disqualified from a Major. Roland Garros was his chance to put the memory of that incident behind.

The 2020 French Open final was the eighth meeting between Nadal and Djokovic at Roland Garros and the third for the title. While the summit clashes of 2012 and 2014 saw Djokovic at least taking a set off Nadal, the 2020 one went out of his sight in a flash. Despite high-quality tennis, Djokovic conceded his first bagel in a Major final in 45 minutes before Nadal wrapped up the second 6-2.

 

The third set was a close affair till Nadal broke the Serbian in the 11th game. From 30-15 up, a mistimed backhand, a long forehand and a double fault cost Djokovic the game. Nadal served it out to love with an ace to seal the set, the match, his 100th win at Roland Garros and a 13th French Open title. For the fourth time in his career, the Spaniard had lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy without dropping a set all tournament.

“Today, you showed why you are the king of clay,” Djokovic said to Nadal during the presentation ceremony. “I experienced it in my own skin.”

Rafael Nadal's route to French Open title in 2020

First round: won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 against Egor Gerasimov (BLR)

Second round: won 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 against Mackenzie McDonald (USA)

Third round: won 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 against Stefano Travaglia (ITA)

Fourth round: won 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 against Sebastian Korda (USA)

Quarterfinal: won 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 against Jannik Sinner (ITA)

Semifinal: won 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 against Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Final: won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 against Novak Djokovic (SRB)

 

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