To achieve 500 matches on a single surface, a player must stay competitive for over ten years. Including the second surface to the story is almost impossible, especially after having one dominant type of court. Rafael Nadal achieved that in 2021, becoming the first player in the Open era with 500 ATP encounters on hard and clay!
Nadal claimed his 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome 2021, beating Novak Djokovic in the final. A day earlier, Rafa toppled Reilly Opelka in the semi-final 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. He became the seventh player in the Open era to achieve that after Guillermo Vilas, Manuel Orantes, Jose Higueras, Thomas Muster, Ilie Nastase and Eddie Dibbs. Playing much fewer tournaments on clay than 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 after 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 after 15 or 20 years.
You have to produce significant numbers on clay to achieve it, especially if you only enter a few events on the slowest surface every year, which was Nadal's case.
Rafael Nadal became the only player in the Open era with 500 matches on 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 takes a lot of work to achieve.
Besides that, you 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 his 36th and last Masters 1000 crown in Rome and tenth at Foro Italico.
Rafa had played 501 ATP matches on clay at that point, with mind-blowing numbers. The Spaniard won 459 out of 501 encounters and claimed 62 titles from 106 tournaments! Out of those 62 ATP crowns on clay, 46 came at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, four of the 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! Last year, Nadal claimed his 14th Roland Garros crown at 35, stopping the clock again and extending his dominance at a beloved Major.