This is the first clay court event in Rafa's build up to the French Open which he has also won 10 times!!
Here are 10 amazing clay stats to know about the world's best ever clay court player.
He’s won 28 of his last 29 matches on clay. It's a stretch dating back to the 2016 French Open; his only loss in that time came against Dominic Thiem in last year's Rome quarterfinals. He’s also won his last 26 sets on clay, and 65 of his last 69.
He has a 391-35 career win-loss record on clay. Nadal’s combined win-loss record on all other surfaces is an excellent 488-151, but on clay he’s an incredible 391-35 .
He’s won Monte Carlo, Barcelona and the French Open 10 times each. Nadal is the only man in the Open Era to win any event 10 times—and he’s done it at three different clay court events.
He’s the only man in tennis history to win the same Grand Slam title 10 times. Nadal’s 10 French Opens—2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017—put him alongside Margaret Court as the only players, male or female, to win the same Grand Slam title 10 times (she won 11 Australian Opens).
He’s won one of every five French Opens in the Open Era. Last year’s French Open was the 50th French Open since the Open Era began back in 1968.
He’s won more ATP clay-court titles than anyone else in the Open Era. Nadal’s 53 career clay court titles is an Open Era record; the previous record-holder was Guillermo Vilas, with 49.
He’s 82-17 in his career against Top 10 players on clay. On all other surfaces combined, Nadal has a 71-66 career record against Top 10 players, but on clay he’s a much scarier 82-17.
He’s 32-4 against the rest of the current Top 10 on clay. Nadal won’t be intimidated by the current Top 10 on clay—he’s a combined 32-4 against them on the surface. Thiem and Roger Federer (who again isn’t even playing the clay season this year) have two wins each.
He’s 79-2 at the French Open. Nadal has lost just two matches in his career at Roland Garros: in the fourth round in 2009, to Robin Soderling; and in the quarterfinals in 2015, to Novak Djokovic.
He’s 63-4 at next week’s event in Monte Carlo. Nadal’s only four losses at the first Masters 1000 event of the year on clay came in the third round in 2003, to Guillermo Coria; the final in 2013, to Djokovic; the quarterfinals in 2014, to David Ferrer; and the semifinals in 2015, to Djokovic.
What club players can learn from Rafa about how to play better on clay.....1 - Nadal's fitness is incredible both in terms of his speed and ability to keep going even during the longest of rallies/matches.
Club player - Improve your general levels of fitness which will allow you to stay in the point longer and recover quickly for the next one. When Agassi lost to Wilander in the French Open final many years ago he vowed never to lose a match again for a lack of conditioning! An easy (and more fun way) of improving tennis fitness is just to feed in the ball without the serve and play out the point preferably singles as much more exercise! Or you can sprint up hills like Agassi used to do! Some gym work wouldn't do any harm either!
2 - Nadal's ability to slide and defend the court plus reach short balls at the end of a slide helps him to stay in points which for many players would be lost.
Club player - Learning to slide on a clay court is fundamental for any aspiring player and this can be learned! The first step would be to practise sliding on a clay court without necessarily hitting the ball and then progress to small slides trying to time it so that you stop just before you hit the ball.
It's important to have a strong core in order to slide effectively so an element of off court training is essential.
It's also much easier to slide on a warm clay court than on a wet damp one like the ones we generally have in the UK! (so why not come with us to Italy?).
3 - Nadal's use of heavy topspin on his forehand combined with excellent dropshots make it very difficult for his opponents to ever get settled in a rally.
Club Player - we may not all be able to generate the same amount of spin and racket head speed as Rafa, but learning to hit even a small amount of topspin can be extremely useful on clay with the higher bounces. If you can get the ball high to a club player's backhand (or forehand if they have an eastern grip) you will have more chance of a short ball or error.
Dropshots must also be developed as they are more effective on clay courts due to the responsive nature of the courts i.e. hit with some backspin the ball will bounce up or even backwards!
4 - Nadal uses his 1st serve on clay to gain an advantage in the rally more than trying to win the point with a flat serve. His use of slice or topspin on the 1st serve is more effective on clay, due to the slow, high bouncing nature of the court which allows opponents more time to return even a fast serve.
Club Player - Getting the 1st serve in with topspin or slice is much more important since a flat, faster serve comes through at a nice height for the returner. This goes for both singles and doubles.
5 - Nadal's greatest quality is his mental resilience in my opinion. This is a huge factor on any surface, but in particular on clay as it's much more difficult to win a point quickly. Rafa very rarely loses if the match goes to a 3rd set and is even less likely to lose in the 5th set largely due to his mental abilities.
Club Player - Assuming you have enough legs (fitness) then you have more chance of being mentally resilient as the match goes on. You need to be willing to suffer and work hard both mentally and physically.