Rafael Nadal has won at least one ATP title on clay for 17 straight years, a record that will take some beating in the future. An owner of an incredible 445-40 score on the slowest surface, Nadal has claimed the majority of his achievements on clay, lifting the 13th Roland Garros crown in October to extend his dominance at 34.
Like many active and retired players in the past month and a half, the former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash praised the Spaniard and his clay records. Dominating at a single Major like no one before him, Rafael Nadal became the first player with four Major titles without dropping a set, achieving that in his beloved Paris on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
On October 11, Nadal conquered the 13th Roland Garros crown from 16 trips to Paris, ousting all seven rivals in straight sets to earn a remarkable record and join Roger Federer on 20 Major trophies! At 34, Nadal endured all the Paris efforts, beating the opponents and challenging conditions to confirm his greatness on the slowest surface and write the record books 15 years after his first Parisian triumph.
The Spaniard suffered only eight breaks in seven matches, delivering incredible tennis on both serve and return to leave all the rivals far behind and defend the crown. In the opening four rounds, Rafa toppled Egor Gerasimov, Mackenzie McDonald, Stefano Travaglia and Sebastian Korda without breaking a sweat, giving serve away once and dropping 23 games - ten against Gerasimov in the first clash - in 12 sets to sail into the quarters.
Nadal had to work hard against the young Italian star Jannik Sinner, getting broken twice and trailing 6-5 in the opener. Rafa broke back in the last moment and won the tie break to keep his perfect score, prevailing in the second and shifting into a higher gear in the third to advance into the semis.
Diego Schwartzman defeated Rafa in Rome but stood no chance in Paris, with the Spaniard taking the opening two sets 6-3 before wasting the lead in the third for some drama. Schwartzman gained momentum in the second part of the set to reach a tie break that Nadal won 7-0 to move over the top in style and move into the 13th Roland Garros final.
Rafael Nadal claimed the 13th title from 16 appearances in Paris in October.
The most formidable obstacle stood between Rafael Nadal and the title, with world no. 1 Novak Djokovic awaiting on the other side of the net, seeking the second trophy in Paris.
Like those before him, Novak had nothing to offer against Rafa, who produced a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in two hours and 41 minutes, winning the fourth Major crown without losing a set! Nadal landed 31 winners and 14 unforced errors, performing strongly from both wings and taking 51% of the return points to control the scoreboard.
Novak sprayed 52 unforced errors, seeking his A-game for more than two hours and suffering a massive loss despite a solid effort in the last set. Rafa lost serve once, ensuring that Novak left his mighty return in the locker room and demolished him in the shortest rallies up to four strokes.
Just like in 2008 against Roger Federer, Nadal delivered a bagel in the opening set, playing almost flawless tennis and providing three breaks against the world's leading player, finishing it with an ace at 5-0 after 45 minutes.
Rafa faced no break chances in set number two, taming his strokes nicely and outplaying Djokovic on the return for another rock-solid set of tennis and a 6-0, 6-2 advantage after a swift an hour and 34 minutes. Eager to avoid disaster, Djokovic saved a break point in the third game of the third set and raised his level.
Rafa broke him at love in game five and gave the serve away for the only time a few minutes later, providing Djokovic with a necessary boost that made him a contender again. Nadal held comfortably in games eight, ten and 12, earning a break at 5-5 after a double fault from Novak and sealing the deal with a hold at love for a massive celebration of the 20th Major title.