Rafael Nadal has played 48 Masters 1000 tournaments on clay in a career, delivering incredible performance and turning almost 200 victories into jaw-dropping 25 titles! Nadal made the Masters 1000 debut in Monte Carlo 2003 as a qualifier, scoring two wins at 16 and repeating that a month later in Hamburg to present his full talent and abilities on the slowest surface.
The Spaniard had to skip the clay swing in 2004 following an injury in Estoril, playing his third clay-court Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo 2005 and winning the title! A month later, Nadal secured the second trophy following that epic triumph over Guillermo Coria, becoming the player to beat on dirt and securing the first Major crown at Roland Garros a few days after turning 19.
For the last 16 years, Nadal has been the dominant figure at the clay-court Masters 1000 events, suffering some early exits but usually cruising through the latter stages and fighting for the trophies. Rafa was the semi-finalist in 36 out of 48 tournaments played, an incredible streak that got spoiled a bit in the previous two seasons.
In 2019, Nadal suffered the semi-final loss in Monte Carlo and Madrid before bouncing back in Rome to secure his 25th and so far the last Masters 1000 title on clay. In 2020 and 2021, the Spaniard has played three events of this series on clay and failed to reach the final four, embracing the worst streak of his career, as it never happened to him before!
Rafael Nadal has failed to reach SF at three consecutive clay-court Masters.
In Rome last year, Nadal struggled to find his A-game in the quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman during the night session in September, suffering a 6-2, 7-5 loss to lose the title.
Diego secured five breaks from 54% of the return points won, lost serve twice and moved over the top in style. Schwartzman had 31 winners and 17 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 21-30 ratio and dominating the most extended exchanges to find himself over the top.
Ready to bounce back this April in his beloved Monte Carlo, Rafa scored two commanding victories before falling to Andrey Rublev 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarters, losing ground in sets he lost and failing to lift the 12th crown in the Principality.
Rublev stole Nadal's serve seven times, dominating the scoreboard in sets one and three to deliver Nadal's 41st ATP loss on clay. The youngster had 23 winners and 28 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and taking advantage of Nadal's over 30 unforced mistakes, especially from his backhand wing.
Rafa gave his best to overcome the second set deficit and start all over, only to trail to Rublev in the decider and hit the exit door. Nadal advanced to another quarter-final in Madrid, where Alexander Zverev ousted him 6-4, 6-4.
The German kept the Spaniard at around five winners and had the upper hand on the court, hitting almost 30 winners and taming his strokes nicely to grab three breaks and rattle off ten of the last 14 games for a place in the semis. Nadal will try to bounce back in Rome next week, desperate for a deep run in his final test ahead of Roland Garros.