After 2008 et 2010, Rafael Nadal has won a third Roland-Garros without losing a single set. But this performance in a Grand Slam tournament, as crazy as it may sound, had already been achieved by four other players.
Ken Rosewall, Australian Open 1971
And to think that he wasn’t even among the professional players at the start of his career…Having easily won the Australian Open in 1971 (his third victory in the competition, which, however, was only considered to be a major tournament from 1969), Ken Rosewall will forever remain the first player to win a Grand Slam tournament without losing a single set. At home, Ken started with a 7-5, 7-5, 7-5 against Robert Carmichael, before three easy wins against Ismail El Shafei (6-0, 6-2, 7-6), Roy Emerson (6-4, 6-4, 6-3) and Tom Okker (6-2, 7-6, 6-4). In the final, the player seeded at the second spot defeated Arthur Ashe, seed number 3, without shaking : 6-1, 7-5, 6-3. One year later, aged 37 and two months, the Australian conceded one set in the semi-finals but still managed to win the trophy. To this day, he remains the oldest winner of a major tournament. Hats off.
Ilie Năstase, Roland-Garros 1973
His final against Nikola Pilić sums up Ilie Năstase’s tournament pretty well. Having easily defeated the Yugoslavian (6-3, 6-0, 6-0), the Romanian went through the competition like an alien surrounded by humans. In four matches, Ilie only conceded 38 games. A never-seen-before performance in Paris. « Since I was a kid and since I started on a clay court in Romania, I’ve dreamt about winning Roland-Garros. In 1971, I missed the trophy. But on this June 3rd, 1979, I finally got my revenge. I hadn’t lost a single set, and I was facing the impressive left-handed, Nikola Pilic in the final, he later said in an interview with Paris Match. Henri Cochet and Philippe Chatrier brought me the Musketeer’s trophy. Then, we went for dinner, just like any other day ! » As normal as celebrating his wedding with a model at Roland-Garros, the day before the men’s final in 2004.
Björn Borg, Wimbledon 1976
They shouldn’t have annoyed him. After being deprived from his title at Roland-Garros, Björn Borg got angry in London. His game wasn’t adapted to grass ? You must be joking : the Swede, unbeatable in England, crushed everyone during the two weeks of competition, thanks to the dry weather which made the surface a little harder. His first title at Wimbledon (out of four in total) turned out to be the one where he faced the less competition. Whether it be Brian Gottfield in the fourth round (2, 2 and 5), Guillermo Vilas in the quarter-final (3, 0, and 2), Roscoe Tanner in the semis (4, 8, and 4) or even the favorite Năstase in the final (4, 2 and 7), Borg showed how much he had improved on grass, and his qualities at the net. Exceptional, especially knowing that he was suffering from stomach aches…
Björn Borg, Roland-Garros 1978 and 1980
If he doesn’t have any motivation left in him after achieving the Decima at the French Open, Rafael Nadal can take a look at Borg’s statistics at Roland-Garros. In 1978, Björn only lost 32 small games…which is less than Rafa’s 35 in this 2017 edition. Apart from the legendary 86-shots long point against Vilas in the final, the Swede never encountered any trouble in 1978. Largely dominating his opponents, he won five sets on the score of 6-0. Against Corrado Barazzutti in the semi-final ? 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. The final ? 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. The three first rounds ? Eight games conceded.
Two years later, Borg did it again. A little less dominant, but still : only 21 games conceded on his road from the fourth round to his triumph, which couldn’t be contested. And what if Nadal had played during that time ?
Roger Federer, Australian Open 2007
After his semi-final, Andy Roddick tried to express his feelings on his defeat. « It’s terrible. You feel miserable (…). I was crushed tonight, without a doubt. I’m going to try to take it like a man. » The reason behind his depression ? Roger Federer. A storm which had been crushing everything on its way for many years. And even more during this Australian Open. Fernando Gonzalez, the losing finalist to who Roddick predicted a living hell, tried to stand up for himself, but only managed to take Federer to a tie-break. Just like Tommy Robredo in the quarter-final. In the previous round, Novak Djokovic also suffered a battering. The fact of having won all his sets ? « First, it’s mainly a surprise, as I didn’t expect to play so well in my first tournament of the year, said the Swiss. But then, breaking or equaling records is nice of course, but it has never been my goal. It’s the media who mention these things all the time. What’s really important is the trophy, even if you have to go to 20-18 in the fifth set to win it. » RF doesn’t need that.