When Rafael Nadal entered an exclusive 'Club 500'



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When Rafael Nadal entered an exclusive 'Club 500'

Rafael Nadal claimed the 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome last year, beating Novak Djokovic in the final. A day earlier, Rafa toppled Reilly Opelka in the semis and earned a massive record that should stay in his possession for a long time.

Nadal played his 500th ATP match on clay versus the American, becoming the seventh player in the Open era to achieve that after Guillermo Vilas, Manuel Orantes, Jose Higueras, Thomas Muster, Ilie Nastase and Eddie Dibbs. Not playing that many tournaments on clay as the mentioned player, Rafa needed 16 incredible years on the slowest surface to achieve that number.

Thus, the Spaniard became the first player in the Open era with 500 encounters on two different surfaces, already passing a 500-match mark on hard! This record will take some beating in the future, and it would not be a surprise if Nadal still stands alone on it after 15 or 20 years.

You have to produce significant numbers on clay to achieve it, especially if you do not enter that many events on the slowest surface, which was Nadal's case.

Rafael Nadal became the only player in the Open era with 500 matches at two surfaces.

The clay-court specialists may reach that number, but they need at least 30 matches on clay every season for over 16 years, which is incredibly tough to achieve.

Besides that, you also have to stay competitive on hard courts during that period, and it should be interesting to see if anyone will follow Nadal's feat in the next couple of decades. Nadal claimed the 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome and tenth at Foro Italico, beating Novak Djokovic in the final to lift the season's second title.

Rafa had played 501 ATP matches on clay at that point, with mind-blowing figures. The Spaniard won 459 out of 501 encounters and claimed 62 titles from 106 tournaments! Out of those 62 ATP crowns on clay, 46 had come at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, four out of five most important events on the slowest surface, alongside the Madrid Masters.

Between 2005 and 2007, Rafa embraced an incredible streak of 81 consecutive triumphs on clay, setting another Open era record and adding 50 straight sets won on his beloved surface in 2017 and 2018! As it turned out, the Rome title is Nadal's last on clay so far, losing the Roland Garros semi-final a few weeks later and failing to deliver his A-game this spring.