Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the only tennis players with 70 matches played in the same Masters 1000 event. Roger has achieved it in Indian Wells and Miami, and Rafa has added his name to the list with a remarkable performance in Monte Carlo, Rome and Indian Wells.
Two legends stand at 79 matches in their most productive Masters 1000 tournaments, with Federer reaching that figure in Indian Wells and Nadal in Monte Carlo. Nadal could become the only player with 80 matches in a single Masters 1000 event this week in Monte Carlo.
However, he was unable to compete at one of his favorite Tour stops after suffering a broken rib during the Indian Wells campaign. Nadal made his debut in Monte Carlo in 2003 at the age of 16 and scored two wins as a qualifier to start his incredible career.
Two years later, the Spaniard claimed his first title at 18, and went undefeated until the 2013 final, securing 46 consecutive wins and a place in the record books. Rafa recovered between 2016 and 2018 with three more titles in the Principality before losing a bit of ground in the last two seasons.
Monte Carlo closed its doors in 2020 due to the pandemic, with Nadal failing to play his 80th match at this event last year. The Spaniard claimed two dominant wins over Federico Delbonis and Grigor Dimitrov to sail to the quarter-finals and move closer to the record.
However, Andrey Rublev proved too strong for the king of clay and beat him 6-2 4-6 6-2 in two hours and 32 minutes. It was Nadal's earliest loss in Monte Carlo since 2014. Rublev squandered the lead in the second set but came back stronger in the third to cross the finish line in style.
Nadal skipped the Barcelona Open
During the conversation with ATP, Casper Ruud shed light on Rafael Nadal's modus operandi on clay. "He sets up the point very well and many times the same way. He likes to dominate points with his forehand and I think the majority of his clay-court career, he has been very successful playing his forehand heavy crosscourt to his opponent’s backhand, usually when he plays right-handed players," Ruud explained.
"Most players struggle with his shots and it’s very normal because they’re very heavy. I think this is what makes him so successful. I have practised with him quite a bit and I think he never gives you room to breathe when you play against him on clay.
All the shots he produces are very heavy to face because he puts a lot of topspin and they bounce very high," Ruud said. "Any time you need to play a shot above shoulder height from the baseline or when you play groundstrokes, it’s tough.
It’s tough to get good enough depth back when he plays these heavy shots, so he gets a chance many times to move forward and go for an aggressive shot."