Rafael Nadal's Dual Domination: Decoding his Clay and Hard Court Wizardry

Rafael Nadal played equally good on hard and clay in 2019, winning two titles on each surface

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Dual Domination: Decoding his Clay and Hard Court Wizardry

Rafael Nadal had a great run in 2019, raising his level in May and earning the year-end no. 1 honor for the fifth and last time. The Spaniard played well on hard and clay, winning two titles on each surface and achieving a 21-3 run on clay and 32-2 on hard!

Asked about his performances on both surfaces, Nadal would still pick clay over hard, reminding he had two withdrawals on hard ahead of the matches he could have lost. Also, Rafa admitted his results on clay could have been better, starting his favorite swing after injuries in Acapulco and Indian Wells and experiencing three losses.

Nadal experienced his worst loss in the Major finals at the Australian Open, powerless against Novak Djokovic. Dealing with injuries in Acapulco and Indian Wells, Nadal skipped Miami and lost the rhythm a bit ahead of his favorite part of the year.

The king of clay reached three semi-finals in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, although he failed to advance into the final at any event! Fabio Fognini, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas halted the legend, and he needed a better performance in Rome and Paris.

Nadal raised his level to conquer the Rome Masters and gained a boost ahead of Roland Garros. Rafa claimed his 12th Roland Garros title from 15 trips to Paris, extending his legacy and securing his 18th Major crown, moving two away from Roger Federer's record.

Those 3000 ATP points kept Nadal in the ATP Race against Novak Djokovic, and he reached the semi-final at Wimbledon for the second straight year. Rafa fell to Roger Federer in four sets before bouncing back during the North American hard swing.

Rafael Nadal still had clay over hard in 2019.

Nadal revived his hard-court magic and conquered the Canada Masters and the US Open, securing another pack of 3000 ATP points and becoming the ATP Race leader. Rafa wrapped up the year with 19 Major titles, standing one behind Roger Federer and hoping to challenge him in 2020.

Nadal skipped the Shanghai Masters and returned in Paris, desperate to earn points and stay ahead of Djokovic in the year-end no. 1 battle. An injury forced the Spaniard to withdraw before the semi-final clash with Denis Shapovalov.

He traveled to the ATP Finals with 640 points advantage over Djokovic and defended them when they failed to reach the semi-final, securing his fifth and last year-end no. 1 award. Nadal wrapped up the year with the Davis Cup Finals title in front of his home fans in Spain.

"No, no, I'm stronger on clay. The stats are what they are, but winning a lot on hard after lifting trophies in Rome and Roland Garros was easier. I also had to withdraw before the Indian Wells semi-final against Roger and in Bercy against Shapovalov.

I could have lost two more matches, which would have changed the success rates. Also, my percentage on clay could have been better this season. I was not at my best when the clay swing started following injuries in Acapulco and Indian Wells.

It was too little to attack the clay season. To summarize my way of seeing surfaces: if I'm at my maximum level, I have more options to win on clay than on hard," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal