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Clay Court Conqueror Rafael Nadal’s Few Yet Heart-Breaking Losses at French Open Over the Years

Published 05/24/2023, 7:50 AM EDT

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The French Open is the personal playground of Rafael Nadal. Ever since 2005, anyone who has stepped up to the challenge of facing the King of Clay has met with their worst nightmare. With 112 wins in 18 years, Nadal has effectively claimed the title of Mr. French Open. But he is not undefeated. Of all the greats he has faced, two have managed to defeat Nadal in the French Open. 

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Overall, Nadal has lost four French Open matches he has played. His loss came at the hands of Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic. His 2016 sting in Paris was tragically ended by a wrist injury which forced him to retire. 

First French Open loss to Robin Soderling in 2009


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After winning four French Open titles in a row, fans were once again ready to see Nadal lift the La Coupe des Mousquetaires. However, a miracle took place in the 2009 version of the tournament. In the fourth round, Nadal faced Robin Soderling, who was ranked 25 at the time. In a surprising turn of events, Soderling took the first set from the Spaniard with ease. The King of Clay came back in the second set with great effort and revived the path for a cliched clay victory.

But Soderling never gave up and took two consecutive sets from Rafa. The final score of the match turned out to be 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2). The Swedish player pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the sport and went on to be the runner-up. He handed Rafa his first defeat in the French Open after 31 consecutive wins.


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Defeat against arch-rival Novak Djokovic in 2015

With Nadal back in form from 2010, avid tennis viewers once again expected him to win every French Open he played. However, they forgot that a certain Serbian was working hard to defeat Nadal. Novak Djokovic had lost every encounter against Rafa in the Roland Garros. But he stepped into the 2015 quarterfinal with absolute determination against the defending champion.

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The two exchanged blows as the match started, and no player had the plan to relent. But the Djoker emerged victorious in the first set. The following two sets were easy pickings, as the Serbian only lost four games in the last two sets. He won with the match with a final score of 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

Read more – All You Need to Know About the Prize Money Details for the French Open 2023

After this match, he went on to win his first Roland Garros. After three finals in the clay major, Djokovic finally lifted his first Musketeers’ trophy. Djokovic handed Nadal his second defeat in his 72nd match.

Another loss to Novak Djokovic in 2021

2015 was not the only time Nadal lost to the Djoker in the clay court major. The next occurrence would take place in 2021, as the Spaniard once again played as the defending champion. The two clashed at the semifinal and again had a glorious battle. This time, Nadal would give Djokovic a tougher battle. 


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The Spaniard won the first set and was on his way to another final. But Djoker did not show any signs of giving up. He won the match in straight sets, despite Rafa almost winning the fourth set. The final score of the match was 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2. After winning this match, Djokovic would go on to win his second French Open and exacted revenge against Nadal, who won the 2020 French Open final contested between the two. 

Watch this story – ‘Rafa Is Usually the Grabber, Not the Grabbie’- Spanish Tennis Veteran’s Adorable Rafael Nadal ‘B*TT’ Tale Sparks Hilarious Reactions From Fans


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While Rafa has played in every Roland Garros, he will be absent this year for the first time since 2005, but his glory in the tournament is one that people will remember forever. 

Does Nadal’s absence give Djokovic the opportunity to lift his third Musketeers’ Trophy in Paris?

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Written by:

Ripunjay Gaba


One take at a time

Ripunjay is a Tennis writer with an unwavering passion for the sport and a deep admiration for Roger Federer. He specializes in providing in-depth coverage of everything related to the 'Swiss Maestro.' Ripunjay's love for tennis is evident in the quality of his writing, which is characterized by its clarity, depth, and insightful analysis.
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Edited by:

Tony Thomas