Rafael Nadal: The best at what he does best
Rafael Nadal is the only tennis player to have been victorious at the same tournament eleven different times in his career. Let that sink in for a moment. I have heard of primary school sprinters winning their particular event a handful of times in a row against some fierce under-12 competition - but to win consistently at the same place at an elite level actually leaves you speechless. Not just any tournament either, a Grand Slam.
Putting a little more mayonnaise on this for you, he is so obscenely good that he has actually frightened the greatest tennis player of all time away from this event. And I leave a big question mark next to the best tennis player of all time.
What is the one common trend here? Clay. The delicious dirt. Or as Rafa calls it, home. As we are nearing the end of the 2018 ATP season I thought it was appropriate to reflect on particular records that WILL never be broken again.
Nadal has won 11 French Open titles, 11 Monte-Carlo Masters titles, and just to give your tummy a rub he has a 92.2% win rate on clay. One of the most respected tennis analysts ever, Brad Gilbert, earlier this year gave Rafa a 40% chance of winning all five major clay tournaments including the French Open. Essentially when given the choice between one player and everyone else with a racquet in their hand, there is one man at practically near even odds.
Want some extra sauce with that mayonnaise? He has won 1 out of every 5 French Opens ever contested!
I have to draw it to a conclusion because as I reread my work I myself think I'm making half of these numbers up. Lance Armstrong was doing it but we all know how that turned out. What I'm trying to say is that Nadal has been so dominant on a clay court, it is better than how good any other athlete has been at anything else, ever. Michael Jordan on a basketball court, Michael Schumaker on a race track, Tiger Woods on the putting green, the list goes on. There is no debate.
Roger Federer won't even bother playing on clay, and part of that is to control his schedule and avoid injuries but the real reason is—no one wants to be second best. Does this draw into the discussion of who is the best of all time? I'll leave that for another day. Am I a Rafa fan? Clearly.