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Australian Open 2019: Nadal's most dominant Grand Slam runs

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 25 Jan 2019
  • Nadal has carved up the 2019 Australian Open draw to reach the final
  • It's his most ruthless run to the final of a Grand Slam outside of Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has advanced into a Grand Slam final for the seventh time in his career without dropping a set at the 2019 Australian Open - but where does his current run in Melbourne rank in terms of his most dominant outings at major level?

Coming into the Australian Open without a competitive match under his belt since September when he retired in the U.S. Open semi-finals with a knee injury, Nadal has delivered some vintage performances over the last fortnight at Melbourne Park, cruising into the final without relinquishing a single set. After also undergoing minor ankle surgery, Nadal has taken care of a trio of Australians, two Next Generation stars and a former top 10 player and Grand Slam runner-up during his ruthless run through the draw.

R1: d. James Duckworth 64 63 75
R2: d. Matthew Ebden 63 62 62
R3: d. Alex de Minaur 61 62 64
R16: d. Tomas Berdych 60 61 76
QF: d. Frances Tiafoe 63 64 62
SF: d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 62 64 60

Rafael Nadal after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
Nadal has lost just 48 games in advancing to the Australian Open final, which is easily his most commanding run down under (he was stretched to a five-set, five hour epic against Fernando Verdasco in the 2009 semi-finals in the only year he won the title). It’s only the second time in Nadal’s career outside of Roland Garros that he’s progressed to the final of a Grand Slam without dropping a set, following his supreme run to the 2010 U.S. Open title.

There’s a major similarity with that run and his current Australian Open campaign - and that’s Nadal turning up at the tournament with a different service motion. At the 2010 U.S. Open, Nadal was suddenly firing down extremely fast serves, which ultimately led to more free points during his run to the silverware. While Nadal isn’t quite replicating that, he has altered his motion on the take-back, and he’s serving as well as he’s done in years as a result, while his topspin forehand up the line has been immense throughout the fortnight.

Read on below for Nadal’s most cut-throat runs through Grand Slam draws over the years.

2007 French Open

R1: d. Juan Martin del Potro 75 63 62
R2: d. Flavio Cipolla 62 61 64
R3: d. Albert Montanes 61 63 62
R16: d. Lleyton Hewitt 63 61 76(5)
QF: d. Carlos Moya 64 63 60
SF: Novak Djokovic 75 64 62

The first time Nadal reached a major final without dropping a set, the Spaniard took some big scalps on his way to a third straight French Open title, including his current coach Carlos Moya and former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, along with current rivals Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic. Nadal conceded just 50 games before taking out Roger Federer in four sets in the final.

2008 French Open

Rafael Nadal with the 2008 French Open trophy (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

R1 d. Thomaz Bellucci 75 63 61
R2: d. Nicolas Devilder 64 60 61
R3: d. Jarkko Nieminen 61 63 61
R16: d. Fernando Verdasco 61 60 62
QF: d. Nicolas Almagro 61 61 61
SF: d. Novak Djokovic 64 62 76(3)

Historically, in terms of games dropped, this is Nadal’s third-most merciless run to the final of a Grand Slam. The Spaniard allowed his six opponents on the way to the final just 37 games combined, including dropping just three games each against compatriots Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro in the fourth round and quarter-finals respectively, while Djokovic was once again on the receiving end of a straight sets dispatch in the semis. Nadal would go on to lose just four games in the final against Federer.

2010 French Open

R1: d. Gianni Mina 62 62 62
R2: d. Horacio Zeballos 62 62 63
R3: d. Lleyton Hewitt 63 64 63
R16: d. Thomaz Bellucci 62 75 64
QF: d. Nicolas Almagro 76(2) 76(3) 64
SF: d. Jurgen Melzer 62 63 76(6)

Nadal didn’t face a top 20 player as he bulldozed his way into the 2010 French Open final, but he was decently tested in some of the latter rounds. Almagro improved significantly from his 2008 beatdown to stretch Nadal to a pair of tiebreaks, while an inspired Jurgen Melzer almost forced a fourth set in the semi-finals before the King of Clay closed out a tight tiebreak. Nadal lost 61 games on his way to the final before avenging his shock loss to Robin Soderling from the year before, prevailing in straight sets.

2010 US Open

Rafael Nadal holds the 2010 US Open trophy (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

R1: d. Teymuraz Gabashvili 76(4) 76(4) 63
R2: d. Denis Istomin 62 76(5) 75
R3. d. Gilles Simon 64 64 62
R16: d. Feliciano Lopez 63 64 64
QF: d. Fernando Verdasco 75 63 64
SF: d. Mikhail Youzhny 62 63 64

(74 games lost)

The only other time Nadal has made the final of a hardcourt Grand Slam without dropping a set, but a couple of tougher-than-expected early round examinations mean this run falls short of his current exploits at the 2019 Australian Open. Nadal easily could have lost a set or two in his opening two matches against Gabashvili and Istomin, but once he sunk his teeth into the tournament, he powered through the rest of the draw before conquering Djokovic in four sets in the final.

2012 French Open

R1: d. Simone Bolelli 62 62 61
R2: d. Denis Istomin 62 62 60
R3: d. Eduardo Schwank 61 63 64
R16: d. Juan Monaco 62 60 60
QF: d. Nicolas Almagro 76(4) 62 63
SF: d. David Ferrer 62 62 61

Another remorseless run from Nadal at Roland Garros. Dropping just 35 games on his way to the title match, Nadal only lost four or more games in a set on two occasions before defeating Djokovic in four sets for another French Open crown.

2017 French Open

R1: d. Benoit Paire 61 64 61
R2: d. Robin Haase 61 64 63
R3: d. Nikoloz Basilashvili 60 61 60
R16: d. Roberto Bautista Agut 61 62 62
QF: d. Pablo Carreno Busta 62 20 (RET)
SF: d. Dominic Thiem 63 64 60

Nadal’s most unforgiving navigation of a Grand Slam draw, including a 6-2 6-3 6-1 thumping of Stan Wawrinka in the final. The Spaniard lost just 31 games on his way to the final, however he did benefit from a quarter-final retirement from Carreno Busta, although to he honest, his countryman was never going to win many more games off Nadal in that sort of form. Nadal conceded just one game in the third round against Basilashvili and ‘bageled’ the ‘Prince of Clay’, Dominic Thiem, in the last set of their semi-final duel.

After breaking down the numbers above, this is Nadal’s most dominant run to the final of a Grand Slam away from Roland Garros, and his fourth-most ruthless overall.

Something else worth noting: every time Nadal has progressed to the final of a major without dropping a set, he’s won the title....

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Australian Open 2019: Nadal's most dominant Grand Slam runs

Rafael Nadal has advanced into a Grand Slam final for the seventh time in his career without dropping a set at the 2019 Australian Open - but where does his current run in Melbourne rank in terms of his most dominant outings at major level?

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