CLAY, and the name is Rafael Nadal. In arguably, the Spaniard has accomplished an impeccable feat on the red dirt, which seems hard to be broken any day in future. It was Bjorn Borg, Thomas Muster, whose records he primarily eyed, but he surpassed them long back.
Denoted as THE KING OF CLAY, the man also became the youngest player ever to complete a career slam in tennis, i.e. at the age of 24, which broke Federer’s record of 27 years of age. This year has been a memento for him, as he has been performing well, and is on a career high since then. Reaching the Australian Open final, was a clear evidence of his strong form and the strength he still has to persevere and play more. 10 titles each at Monte Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona, again brought his sheer dominance over clay into exhibitionism this year. Though he was knocked out in straight sets in the semi-final at Rome Masters by Dominic Thiem, he did well in the previous rounds.
Nadal has won at least one Grand Slam tournament for 10 consecutive years (2005 – 2014) having broken the previous men’s record of 8 consecutive years. Nadal has achieved a record 9+ titles at three different tournaments: French Open (9), Monte Carlo (10), and Barcelona (10). He has accrued 29 titles from these three clay court tournaments alone. No other player in the Open Era has won more than 8 titles at any one tournament with Federer winning 8 titles in Halle and Vilas also winning 8 titles in Buenos Aires. He leads the chart of winning the most ATP 1000 titles with Novak Djokovic, i.e. 30 titles, followed by Federer at 26. Out of those 30, he earned 22 of those on clay. It has always been observed that the Spanish players perform their best on clay, be it ATP or WTA.
He has the highest winning percentage of any player on a single surface, i.e. 91.58% on clay. No other player has even crossed 90%, Federer stands at 86.86% on grass, the second highest after Nadal’s clay numbers. The victory at Monte Carlo Masters against his fellow compatriot, Albert Ramos Vinolas, was his 49th clay title, and he broke the record of Guillermo Vilas of being the only player to have won 49 titles on clay, who won those from 1973-83.
Ever since winning his first French Open title in 2005 at the age of 19, dressed in pirate shorts and long hair, he has pretty much owned the season of the red dirt in the tennis regime. The fervent player about clay, has never failed to play the clay season in any year of his career. Also, doing justice to his title, he has won at least a tournament on clay every year. He remains undefeated at Roland Garros finals, 9-0, out of which 4 victories came against the Greatest of All Times, Roger Federer. As of 2017, Rafa has won at least 2 ATP Tour title for the last 14 consecutive years which is tied for 4th longest in the all-time history of tennis, starting all the way back in 2004 when he won his first Tour title at the age of 18. Starting 2005, through present, 2017, Nadal has won at least 2 Tour titles per year for the last 13 consecutive years. In all, Rafa he won 72 Tour titles as of 15 May 2017 which ranks him as 6th best in the Open Era. Nadal also holds the distinction of being the only man in the Open Era to have 375+ match wins on hard court and 375+ match wins on clay courts.
He has always been very supportive of his national team, at the Davis Cup. He helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011, out of which, 3 finals were won on clay, including a 5-0 victory in 2009, over Czech Republic. A thing which Nadal has, and Federer failed to achieve is an Olympic gold medal, which he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He not only won the gold in 2008, but won a gold in Men’s Doubles as well at the 2016 Rio Olympics, partnering Marc Lopez, which is a feat tied with Federer, who won the gold in 2008, partnering Stan Wawrinka, in Beijing.
This year, the left-hander from Mallorca is eyeing the Roland Garros, to achieve the feat, which no player has ever achieved, i.e. winning the same Grand Slam 10 times. He has won the Roland Garros 2005-08, 2010-14, making it 9 as of now. He has a very profound impact on tennis, and his monstrous forehand is widely acclaimed to be his most dangerous weapon.