The reign of Nadal from his final foes

The Spaniard's record at Roland-Garros will forever link him with the Parisian clay

Rafael Nadal, practice, Roland-Garros 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Fourteen have tried to stop him at the last hurdle, none has succeeded. Rafael Nadal, widely regarded as the 'King of Clay,' has achieved an era-defining dominance at Roland-Garros.

There's nothing quite like seeing the Spaniard go through his routines, lasso his trademark forehand and curl his bicep in celebration on Court Phlippe-Chatrier.

Let's rewind to hear from the men who have tried and failed to topple Nadal in Roland-Garros finals…

Mariano Puerta – (2005)

“When I went off the court, I knew I had lost against the best player in the world on clay. What could I do?”

Mariano Puerta, Rafael Nadal, final, Roland-Garros 2024©️Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Roger Federer – (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011)

"I won the first set easily, and usually in a situation like that I don't let things go by. But it's a final. It's against Nadal. It's on clay," said Federer in 2006. "That makes it very difficult - more difficult maybe than other cases."

"I would have hoped, of course, to get more today than four games," admitted Federer in 2008. "But Rafa has dominated this tournament like perhaps never before. Like Bjorn (Borg). He dominated from the first point until the end. It’s the strongest Rafa that I’ve ever seen. Today he was just supreme."

Robin Soderling – (2010)

"That's why he's so good - because he's moving so well and gets everything back. He's a great defensive player, but also has a great offensive game, as well. He can really change defence to offense really quick."

Nadal Soderling 2010 roland garros final trophy©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Novak Djokovic – (2012, 2014, 2020) 

"He keeps going. No holding him back it seems like. It's amazing," stated Djokovic in 2020.

"I admire all his achievements, especially the one here. It's a stunning record that he's got on this court. He lost two times in his entire career. Winning 13 times, there's not much you can say. All the superlatives you can use, he deserves them."

Rafael Nadal, final, Roland-Garros 2020©️Jean-Charles Caslot / FFT

David Ferrer – (2013)

"He has everything. Mentally, he's the best I have ever seen. He can play aggressively, has soft hands at the net, physically he is unbelievable. He played five sets two days ago and today he can play like that."

David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal, final, Roland-Garros 2013©️Christophe Saidi / FFT

Stan Wawrinka – (2017)

"I think to play Rafa on clay in the Roland-Garros final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis.

"He's the best player ever on clay. When you play Rafa at Roland-Garros, you're never the favourite. Of course you don't want to lose a Grand Slam final, but if you lose, it's almost normal."

Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, final, Roland-Garros 2017©️Philippe Montigny / FFT

Dominic Thiem – (2018, 2019)

"In in my opinion, to play Rafa here on Court Philippe-Chatrier, it’s still the toughest challenge. But I guess also outside of tennis, it’s probably one of the most difficult things ever in sports in general to beat him here on this court.”

Casper Ruud – (2022)

"His numbers speak for themselves. He has never lost a final here, and there is a reason why. I guess like I said in the speech, I'm just another one of the victims that he has destroyed on this court in the final.

"Of course, I wish I could make the match closer and all these things, but at the end of the day I can hopefully one day tell my grandkids that I played Rafa on Chatrier in the final, and they will probably say, 'Wow, did you?' I will say Yes. I'm probably going to enjoy this moment for a long time."

Casper Ruud, Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2022©️Amèlie Laurin / FFT