No one can predict injuries, so you can never be 100% sure. Yet it seems Rafael Nadal is over whatever it was that was holding him back, and his French Open triumph over David Ferrer isn’t going to be the last time he lifts a Grand Slam trophy.
Because even with Novak Djokovic holding the quality edge, it’s impossible, or almost impossible, to beat Nadal in a five-set match on clay, hence his one loss in Paris since 2005. It’s been one heck of a road up until now, and it isn’t likely to end anytime soon.
It began in 2005, when the 19-year old Nadal needed only four sets to win his first Grand Slam title in the French Open, beating Mariano Puerta in the final, following a win over Roger Federer in the semifinal.
In 2006 it was already clear that Nadal is going to end up as one of the greatest ever, at least on clay, at that point in time. He dropped the first set against Roger Federer, but won the next three, which stopped Federer from holding all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
In 2007 it was Federer again, Nadal once more needing four sets to beat the world’s number one in a season in which he won three titles, as Nadal faced 17 break points but lost his serve only once during the match.
In 2008 Nadal became the kind of varied player everyone was hoping to see from him. He won the Roland Garros once more, humiliating Federer with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, signaling there’s a possible change on top of the ATP rankings coming in the future. A month later, in what many think is the greatest match of all time, Nadal won his first Wimbledon title, beating Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7, becoming the first player to beat Federer on grass in six years.
It’s 2009, and the dominance over Federer continues, as Nadal wins the Australian Open for the first time in another classic five set match: 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2, bringing Federer to tears as he missed out on tying Pete Sampras with 14 grand slam titles.
It took almost 18 months for Nadal to feel that kind of glory again, beating Robin Soderling in three sets to claim his fifth French Open title, avenging his loss to the Swede in the tournament a year earlier. Nadal continued his amazing 2010 by winning at Wimbledon, beating Tomas Berdych in three sets, followed by winning the US Open for the first time in his career, completing the career grand slam after beating Novak Djokovic in four sets.
He missed out on the Nadal-Slam in 2011, but did win the 2011 French Open in a year that was highlights by Djokovic dominance. It was once again Roger Federer waiting for Nadal in the French Open final, winning in four sets.
It’s 2012, and Nadal is pre-injury, ending his cursed year against Novak Djokovic, denying the Serbian his fifth Grand Slam title in six tournaments with a four-set win.
A year later, and Nadal, after missing more than six months of tennis due to his knee problems, completed the comeback trail he began four months earlier with a crushing 3-0 win over David Ferrer, making it 12 Grand Slam titles, 8 of them on the Parisian clay.