Rafael Nadal has played 49 Masters 1000 tournaments on clay in his career. The Spaniard has put in an incredible performance and has turned his nearly 200 wins into an impressive 25 titles. The 16-year-old Nadal debuted at the 2003 Monte Carlo Masters 1000 as a qualifier.
He got two wins and repeated a month later in Hamburg to show all his talent and skills on the slower surface. The Spaniard had to sit out the clay court season in 2004 following an injury in Estoril, but he came back stronger a year later.
Rafa played his third Masters 1000 tournament on clay in Monte Carlo 2005 and conquered the title to write the history books. Nadal secured the second trophy after that epic win over Guillermo Coria in Rome a month later. He became a player to beat on clay and secured his first Major crown at Roland Garros just days after his 19th birthday.
For the last 16 years, Nadal has been the dominant figure at the clay-court Masters 1000, suffering some early exits but usually reaching the later stages and fighting for trophies. Rafa was a semi-finalist in 37 of 49 tournaments, an incredible streak that was somewhat marred in the previous two seasons.
In 2019, Nadal suffered semi-final losses in Monte Carlo and Madrid before recovering in Rome to claim his 25th and so far last Masters 1000 title on clay. In 2020 and 2021, the Spaniard played three events of this series on clay and failed to reach all four finals, embracing the losing streak that has never happened to him before!
Patrick Mouratoglou reflects on Nadal
Patrick Mouratoglou recently took to Instagram to explain three changes he feels Rafael Nadal has made to his game over the years. In the coach's opinion, the Spaniard would not have become the player he is today if he had not adapted his game to the changing times.
"In 2005, Rafael Nadal won his first Grand Slam title. He emerged with his own unique gamestyle, standing far behind the baseline and adding crazy spin to every shot. With this game, he became the king of clay," Mouratoglou said.
"Now, he is not just a clay specialist. He's leading the race in terms of Grand Slams won. How did he adapt his game to winning on faster surfaces?" According to the Frenchman, the 35-year-old is looking to keep the rallies as short as possible so he can conserve his energy.
"First, Rafa's game has become more and more aggressive. Early in his career, he would win games by forcing long rallies from baseline," Mouratoglou said. "Now he is looking to step inside the court more, take control of the points and shorten the rallies to conserve energy."