Photo : Martin Sidorjak
By: Ben Lewis
He is rightfully called the King of Clay for a reason.
Rafael Nadal is, for all intents and purposes, the greatest clay court player the world has ever seen.
While he has ruthlessly dominated the surface for the entirety of his career, amassing a record 62 titles, he often saves his very best tennis for the French Open.
Heading into the 2022 edition of the major, Nadal had won 105 of 108 matches on the grounds of Roland Garros, good for a 97.2% winning percentage.
That is just one of several mind-boggling statistics Nadal has produced on the red dirt in Paris.
Here are seven unique stats highlighting Nadal’s astonishing dominance at Roland Garros:
13-0 In Finals
Rafael Nadal has famously won an outrageous 13 French Open crowns, shattering the previous record men’s Open Era record of six set by Bjorn Borg.
That total is also six majors clear of Chris Evert’s mark of seven Roland Garros triumphs.
Perhaps most impressive about his record is his performance in finals, where he is remarkably a flawless 13-0.
Nadal has been so exceptionally dominant in the championship match; he’s lost just six total sets in the final.
In his maiden French Open crown, Nadal rallied past Argentina’s Mariano Puerta 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.
He defeated Roger Federer in the final on three separate occasions (2007, 2008, 2011).
In 2012, he overcame Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, and similarly defeated his rival in four sets in a rematch in 2014.
In 2019, Austria’s Dominic Thiem put up resistance, before Nadal took control, winning the title with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 scoreline.
It’s crystal clear: if you want a shot at taking out Rafa in Paris, you need to land the knockout blow before the final.
Five consecutive titles, 39 match winning streak
Nadal has had numerous stretches of dominance on clay, most notably an absurd 81-match surface winning streak that began in 2005 and stretched to 2007.
His most extraordinary run at Roland Garros began in 2010 and lasting through 2014.
Nadal won five consecutive championships in that span and had 39 consecutive wins in Paris.
The stretch was finally halted in the quarterfinals of 2015, when Novak Djokovic defeated Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
Four French Opens without dropping a set
Winning a two-week major is challenging enough in its own right. Now imagine doing so without losing a set in the process.
Four of Rafa’s Roland Garros crowns have come without losing a single set, which is particularly incredible given the men’s best three-of-five slam format.
Nadal’s 2008, 2010, 2017, and 2020 championships all had him finishing 21-0 in sets across the fortnight.
He was at his most unstoppable in 2017, dropping only 35 total games en route to the title.
The Clay Slam
Pundits had to event a term for this achievement, appropriately deemed the ‘Clay Slam’, since no other player has ever done it.
In 2010, Rafael Nadal won every clay tournament he played leading up to Roland Garros, before capturing the slam.
He opened in April with a title in Monte Carlo, won his home event in Madrid, and was also victorious in Rome.
The Channel Slam
One of the most difficult portions of the tennis calendar comes in the sudden surface change from clay to grass courts.
When competitors finish Roland Garros, they must make immediate preparations for a much quicker, low bouncing surface. The All England Club, site of the Wimbledon Championships, plays much differently than the slower paced red dirt, that often produces high bounces and allows for much longer exchanges.
It’s a place that Roger Federer promptly turned into his stomping ground, winning his maiden Wimbledon trophy in 2003, beginning a streak of five consecutive titles.
It’s a streak that could’ve continued if not for Rafa.
Nadal was in masterful form in 2008, and when he arrived at the French Open, he charged through the field to the finals dropping a mere 37 games.
He then handed his rival Roger Federer one of the most lopsided defeats in slam finals history, dismantling the all-time great 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
He would carry over momentum and confidence from that performance onto the grass, and defeat Federer in the finals of Wimbledon just one month later in one of the greatest matches in the sport’s history to capture the ‘Channel Slam’.
Two years later, Nadal accomplished it once again.
He routinely beat Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the finals of the French Open for his fifth title at the event, avenging a shock loss from the previous year.
He then captured his second career Wimbledon crown, beating Czech Tomas Berdych to win the trophy.
Six+ Majors on Clay and Hard Courts
While several players have managed to win multiple slams across the different surfaces, no one in the Open Era has achieved six or more total majors on both clay and hard courts.
Rafael Nadal achieved this new record-breaking accomplishment earlier this season when he captured his second career Australian Open, defeating Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling five hour, 24 minute final.
That victory, along with his four singles trophies at the U.S. Open, makes up his tally of six majors on hard courts, to go along with his 13 French Opens win on the clay.
Most Matches Won at a Grand Slam Event
It’s the most recent feat Nadal has achieved at Roland Garros.
After defeating Australia’s Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of play on Monday, Rafael Nadal surpassed Roger Federer for the most matches won at single major, reaching 106 victories.
That edges Federer’s mark of 105 victories at Wimbledon.
Whether or not Nadal is capable of another French Open title run remains to be seen, but the numerous records and accolades he’s achieved at the event will be written in the tennis history books for decades to come.