In his tweet published on Tuesday, Roger Federer asked what did he miss while he was off the court and the answer is pretty much simple, nothing! Just like in almost every season since 2005, Rafael Nadal has been the player to beat on clay in the last two months, winning four out of five tournaments he has entered and becoming a 17-time Grand Slam champion in Paris after claiming his 11th Roland Garros crown. To make the things clear and simple, it is enough to say that only seven players in history have won 11 Major titles and Rafa did that at Roland Garros alone, missing to win his beloved Grand Slam only three times since 2005 when he claimed the title on debut, just after turning 19. 13 years later, at the age of 32, Nadal was the dominant figure in Paris once again, winning 21 out of 22 sets and giving his rivals no chance to score a surprise and steal the trophy from him.
Diego Schwartzman was the only player who has managed to win a set against the mighty Spaniard (the first set Rafa dropped in Paris since 2015), playing a great match before they were halted by rain, and he stood no chance once the match was continued on the next day. Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem were far from Rafa's level in the semis and final and nothing could stand in Nadal's way towards the top place on the podium. As always in the case of an all-time great player, every new Major that has been added to a collection brings some special achievements and records and Nadal's triumph in Paris was no different, extending his unreal clay-court dominance and making another big step in that everlasting chase with Roger Federer. First of all, this was the fourth ATP title for Rafa in less than two months and his 79th overall from 115 finals, standing in the fourth behind Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl.
57 of those titles came on clay, drifting away from Guillermo Vilas who stayed on 49 and unlikely to ever be caught. Nadal also became the fifth player with 900 ATP wins after Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer, and he should reach the magical number of 1000 at least in 2020. 415 wins were earned on the slowest surface from just 451 matches played on clay (415-36 at the moment) and this is another record that no one will ever catch in the future. This was Nadal's 24th Grand Slam final, spread out in 12 different seasons, and he is now three clear of Novak Djokovic and six behind Federer. Of course, with 17 Grand Slam titles Rafa is only three behind Rogers on the ultimate list and he has a chance of catching the great Swiss if he finds his magic on the other surfaces again.
Of course, no one has ever won as many titles in Paris or at any other Slam, leaving Federer on eight Wimbledon crowns and Sampras on seven at the same tournament. Starting from the US Open in 2016, seven consecutive Grand Slam titles went to a player who turned 30, which never happened before, and the last six went to Federer and Nadal, their biggest streak since 2009 and another testimony of their timeless class and determination to improve their game on regular basis. Nadal is the third player after Andrea Gimeno and Ken Rosewall who has managed to win Roland Garros after turning 32 and the Spaniard is the fourth player with three Majors after turning 30, following Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer.
Pete Sampras once said that every season with at least one Grand Slam title has to be considered great and this was Nadal's 12th if we look that way, another testimony of his longevity at the top and the ability to overcome all the obstacles and injuries and raise himself over the rivals. Rafa has won 86 out of 88 matches played in Paris (he is 111-2 in the best-of-five matches on clay) and he is the third player with so many wins at single Major after Jimmy Connors at the US Open and Roger Federer at Austrian Open and Wimbledon. In addition, Rafa has won 237 Grand Slam matches, enough to pass Jimmy Connors and stands third behind Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. After leaving Roland Garros and clay behind him, Rafael Nadal will now turn his focus to grass (if he decides to play, of course) and his first good result at Wimbledon since 2011 when he lost in the final to Novak Djokovic, and of course to US Open where he is the defending champion as well, hoping to add more achievements to his already impressive list of records, some of which will stay in his ownership forever, especially those related to clay.