Rafael Nadal and Clay: An invincible bond!
In sport and in real life too we are fascinated by the countless stories where people get emotionally attached to a particular place or a certain time and their love affair with the said place or time goes on for years and years altogether like a perennial relationship for a lifetime.
If ever tennis resembled our life and if we could personify the events and incidents associated with the game, Roger Federer and the grass of Wimbledon while Novak Djokovic and the hard courts of the Australian Open share a sacred, divine relationship. But neither of these two are anywhere close to the eternal bond that Rafael Nadal and the red clay of Roland Garros share, nurture and flourish. For tennis fans and sports fans in general, no other relationship is as romantic and as fulfilling as the one that Nadal maintains with the red dirt of Paris.
For Nadal, the red dirt in general and especially the one at the French Open helps to find him his solitude amidst the chaos, motivates him to find solutions to each and every problem life throws at him and most importantly blesses him with rich vein of success which perhaps can only be imagined to have happened in fairy tales.
Nadal knows court Philippe Chatrier by every nook and corner - he literally owns that place. No wonder millions of his fans come out in large number each year to cheer on their undisputed champion as he entertains, captivates and mesmerizes them just like a musician who engages the crowd in a concert through their breathtaking music.
His dominance at Roland Garros seems to be of such astounding proportions that I bet the sweet sound of the ball striking the strings of his racquet would reverberate throughout the court even when it is empty.
The influence of red clay at Roland Garros on Nadal’s life is cosmic. The moment he steps out on the red dirt, he seems to become injury-free, attains a stature that is invincible and last but not the least seems to be liberated from all the emotions of fear, pain, and agony.
His unconquerable dominance and willpower of steel on clay courts has been a topic of awe and admiration not only in the Tennis world but also in the entire sporting industry. The way he took the French Open by storm and the way he has carried his clay legacy throughout his career has certainly made French Open a site of tennis heritage if not the world heritage.
Nadal has won eleven French Open titles so far, five more than the next best, Bjorn Borg. He has defeated Roger Federer, his biggest rival and dearest friend four times and Novak Djokovic twice in the finals en route his way towards La Undecima.
His jaw-dropping 86-2 win-loss record on the Parisian clay and his unprecedented 57 titles on clay are just a byproduct of his unadulterated love towards the game, hunger to succeed, never say die attitude and the freakish talent that he possesses. His colossal numbers on clay reign him as an undisputed ‘King of Clay’ potentially till the time sun rises and stars shine in our galaxy.
The red dirt has bestowed its favorite son with a famous name and tremendous fame as Nadal looks forward to stretching his legacy almost towards infinity on his beloved surface cometh the season of clay in just a couple of weeks from now.
Can Nadal kick off from where he left off last year and continue his dream run on clay this year too? The answer can be a yes but apparently, it is far more tricky and close than one could imagine. After all, a resurgent Federer and the man on the cusp of yet another calendar slam Djokovic appear to be hungry for some clay success than ever before.