In October last year, Rafael Nadal claimed the 13th Roland Garros crown, writing a new chapter of tennis history and following Roger Federer on 20 Major titles. At 34, Rafa went all the way to extend his Parisian dominance, lifting the trophy without losing a set and overpowering world no.
1 Novak Djokovic in the title match. On paper, everything looked like an easy fortnight at the office for the clay king, as usual in Paris since 2005, but we could not be more wrong assuming that. In the crippled season, Rafa had to deal with a lack of fitness and matches, making a slow return once the season restarted after the coronavirus outbreak and passing all the challenges to lift another trophy at his beloved Roland Garros.
A few days after the Parisian triumph, Nadal spoke about the last half a year and everything he had to endure to reach his best tennis that carried him towards another Major crown. After two painful losses to Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open at the beginning of 2020, Nadal won the 85th ATP title in Acapulco in February.
Instead of competing in Indian Wells, the Spaniard went home and spent the next six months there, with the coronavirus halting the tennis action until August. Rafa did not pick a racquet in March and April, taking a little break and hitting the practice court again in May.
He could not pick up his usual pace, often skipping sessions and not rushing anything on the comeback trail. Rafa withdrew from Cincinnati and the US Open, working on clay and preparing for Rome. The defending champion lost in the quarter-final to Diego Schwartzman in straight sets and head to Roland Garros with only three matches in his legs since the end of February!
More obstacles waited just around the corner in Paris, with the event staged in October and accompanied by cold and rainy weather. In a manner of a true champion, Nadal stormed over the rest of the field, losing serve eight times in seven encounters and dominating from start to finish to wrap up the title in style and show his greatness yet again.
In the title match, Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, controlling the pace and preparing the right gameplan that left the Serb with no chances in the opening two sets. Novak fought stronger in the third, but Nadal was the man on the mission, sealing the deal with a break at 5-5 to add the 20th Major crown to his incredible collection.
"On a social level, we have been living with persistent problems. On a personal level, it's a reality that I went through a bad time after the lockdown; my body did not respond in the best way possible. I had many days with only a little practice and unpleasant feelings in my body. All of that, together with training without clear goals, made the problem worse," Rafael Nadal said.