2017 French Open player profile: Rafael Nadal

Nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal enters this year's French Open as the firm favourite, and the Spaniard has been the in-form player of the clay court season as he looks to clinch 'La Decima'.

2017 French Open player profile: Rafael Nadal
Nadal's most recent Grand Slam singles title was at the French Open in 2014 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

Former world number one Rafael Nadal had injuries that continued to plague his 2015 and 2016 campaigns. The 14-time Grand Slam champion also suffered a loss of form which hampered his tennis, and it remained to be seen if he would get back to his best. Nevertheless, Nadal's form has improved in 2017 due to compatriot Carlos Moya joining his coaching team.

Notable results to date

The nine-time French Open champion began his 2017 campaign in Brisbane. He lost to defending champion Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals in three sets. At the Australian Open, Nadal and Roger Federer preyed on Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic's early exits in Melbourne. The Spaniard defeated Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets to reach the third round. Nadal had to come back from two sets to one down to defeat Alexander Zverev in five sets. Nadal continued his good run of form at the first Slam of the year by defeating Gael Monfils in the fourth round. He gained his revenge against Raonic in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals. In the semifinals, he had another five-set thriller with Grigor Dimitrov. Nadal was appearing in his fourth Australian Open final, and despite breaking in the final set, Nadal was broken back and lost to Federer in his first Grand Slam final since the French Open in 2014 in five sets.

Nadal (left) lost to rival Federer (right) who won his 18th Grand Slam singles title and first since Wimbledon in 2012 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)
Nadal (left) lost to rival Federer (right) who won his 18th Grand Slam singles title and first since Wimbledon in 2012 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

Nadal continued his good run of form in Acapulco but he lost his second final of the year to Sam Querrey. It was Nadal's first ever lost in the Mexican City. He went on to compete at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. However, he was thrashed by Federer, 6-3, 6-4, who went on to win the title in the fourth round. The Spaniard suffered more heartache in Miami as he lost to Federer once more in the final. It was Nadal's fourth runner-up finish in Miami.

The two former world number ones have 32 Grand Slam singles titles between them (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)
The two former world number ones have 32 Grand Slam singles titles between them (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)

Clay Court results leading up to Roland Garros

The Spaniard was always going to be judged on how he would play throughout the clay court season. The world number four began his clay court campaign at the Monte Carlo Masters. Nadal hadn't won the title since 2012 and was going for his tenth title there. He dropped a solitary set in his second-round encounter with Kyle Edmund. He breezed past Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem to win his 70th career title and 50th on the red dirt. The former world number one travelled to Barcelona, looking to win his first in the Spanish city since 2013. Once again, Nadal was far too good for the field. He dispatched Rogerio Dutra Silva, Kevin Anderson, Hyeon Chung, Horacio Zeballos. In the final, he eased past Thiem in straight sets to win ten consecutive matches on clay, and clinch a record 10th title in Barcelona.

The Spaniard won his first title of 2017 in Monte Carlo (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Source: Getty)
The Spaniard won his first title of 2017 in Monte Carlo (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

Nadal was looking to win his fifth title at the Mutua Madrid Open, and his chances were in serious jeopardy. The former world number one dropped a set against Fabio Fognini, who was in sublime form but recovered to win in three. Nadal went on to defeat Nick Kyrigos, David Goffin, and Novak Djokovic for the first time since winning the French Open in 2014 and Thiem in the final. The 14-time Grand Slam champion showed his emotions after his victory over Djokovic, as he showed how much it meant to him. He defeated Thiem in the final to win his 15th consecutive clay court match and third title of 2017.

The nine-time French Open champion took his 15 matches winning streak to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. Nadal's compatriot Nicolas Almagro suffered a knee injury, during their second round clash which forced him to retire. Yet, the Spaniard claimed his 17th consecutive win on the clay courts at the Foro Italico against Jack Sock. For the third consecutive tournament, the seven-time champion took on Thiem, and this time the Austrian came out on top. Thiem defeated Nadal in straights sets, snapping the Spaniard's incredible 17-1 win-loss streak.

The former world number one won his fifth title at the Caja Magica and first since 2014 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)
The former world number one won his fifth title at the Caja Magica and first since 2014 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)

Best French Open result

The 30-year-old loves the red dirt, and it has shown at the French Open. Nadal has won the French Open a record nine times with an incredible 72-2 win-loss record. Robin Soderling became the first player to defeat the Spaniard at Roland Garros. He defeated Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open in 2009. Djokovic became the second man to defeat the nine-time champion, and thrashed him in the quarterfinals in 2015, ending his 39-match winning streak.

Nadal won his first French Open title in 2005 on his first appearance as a 19-year-old. The Spaniard was seeded fourth, and he won his first three matches in straight sets. Nadal defeated France's Sebastien Grosjean in four sets to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Nadal thrashed his compatriot David Ferrer, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 in the quarterfinals, and he defeated top seed Roger Federer in the semifinals in four sets. Nadal was victorious against Mariano Puerta in the final. The Spaniard had to recover from a set down to defeat the unseeded Argentine, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5, and lift his first of nine Coupe des Mousquetaires.

The Spaniard defeated Puerta to live his first Grand Slam singles title in 2005 (Photo by Popperfoto / Professional Sport)
The Spaniard defeated Puerta to live his first Grand Slam singles title in 2005 (Photo by Popperfoto / Professional Sport)

The Spaniard would defeat Federer in the final on four occasions in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

In 2010, Nadal was looking to regain his French Open title as Soderling ended his reign as the four-time defending champion in 2009. The 30-year-old entered the 2010 French Open as the second seed, without dropping a set. He defeated Gianni Mina, Horacio Zeballos, Lleyton Hewitt and Thomaz Bellucci in the first four rounds. He defeated Nicolas Almagro and Jurgen Melzer to reach his fifth French Open final. Nadal defeated Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to win his fifth title at Roland Garros, and gaining revenge for his loss to the previous year.

Nadal was looking to win his seventh French Open title in 2012. The Spaniard cruised past Simone Bolleli and Denis Istomin in his first two rounds. He also thrashed Eduardo Schwank and Juan Monaco to reach the quarterfinals. Nadal defeated compatriots Almagro and Ferrer in the quarterfinals and semifinals. It was the first French Open final between Djokovic and Nadal in 2012. The Spaniard denied the Serb the chance of completing the Career Grand Slam in a final that lasted two days due to rain.

Nadal defeated Federer for the fourth time in the French Open final in 2011 (Photo by Matthew Stockman / Getty)
Nadal defeated Federer for the fourth time in the French Open final in 2011 (Photo by Matthew Stockman / Getty)

The Spaniard entered the French Open in 2013 as the third seed. Furthermore, he dropped his opening sets against Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan before beating them in four sets. He defeated Fognini and Kei Nishikori to compete in an eighth quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Nadal defeated future champion Stan Wawrinka in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Once again he defeated Djokovic in a five-set thriller in the semifinals, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7. The third-seeded Spaniard thrashed compatriot Ferrer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to win an eighth French Open title.

In 2014, Nadal entered the French Open as the top seed with the world number one ranking at stake. He cruised past Robby Ginepri, Dominic Thiem, Leonardo Mayer and Dusan Lajovic in his opening four encounters. He recovered from a set down and cruised past Ferrer, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he completely outplayed Andy Murray, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to reach an impressive ninth final at Roland Garros. For the second time in three years, Nadal was able to defeat Djokovic in a French Open final. In the process, he won his ninth French Open title, and 14th Grand Slam singles title, which is the most recent Slam he has managed to win.

Nadal denied Djokovic the chance to complete the Career Grand Slam from 2012-2014 (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)
Nadal denied Djokovic the chance to complete the Career Grand Slam from 2012-2014 (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)

How Nadal's game translates to this surface

The nine-time French Open champion likes to play aggressive tennis. His stance on returning serve is usually far behind the baseline. The Spaniard's got good movement on clay, and he is athletic which is required to play clay court tennis. , he's the second best defender on clay behind his rival Djokovic, as Nadal has the ability to slide into his shots on this surface. The 30-year-old doesn't hesitate to throw in some drop shots, which works well as his the heavy topspin forces players at the back of the court.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion's serve has improved since Carlos Moya has joined his coaching team. The Spaniard is getting a few more free points on his serve by throwing in some aces. The former world number one enters this year's French Open with renewed confidence. He is now the favourite to clinch a tenth title in the French capital.
 


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