Rafael Nadal: 'This is probably the most unexpected'

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Rafael Nadal: 'This is probably the most unexpected'

Rafael Nadal has played 48 Masters 1000 tournaments on clay in one career, delivering an incredible performance and converting almost 200 victories in 25 astonishing titles. Nadal made his Masters 1000 debut at Monte Carlo 2003 as qualified, scoring two wins at 16 and repeating that a month later in Hamburg to showcase all of his talent and skills on the slower surface.

The Spaniard had to skip the clay tour in 2004 after an injury in Estoril, playing his third Masters 1000 clay-court tournament in Monte-Carlo 2005 and winning the title. A month later, Nadal claimed the second trophy after that epic triumph over Guillermo Coria, becoming the player to beat on clay and clinching the first Major crown at Roland Garros just days after his 19th birthday.

For the past 16 years, Nadal has been the dominant figure in clay-court Masters 1000 events, suffering from a few early starts, but usually making his way through the later stages and fighting for trophies. Rafa was a semi-finalist in 36 of the 48 tournaments played, an incredible streak that was spoiled a bit in the previous two seasons.

In 2019, Nadal suffered defeat in the semifinals in Monte Carlo and Madrid before recovering 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, like never before!

In a recent interview, the 34-year-old revealed that the COVID-19 crisis had made him take serious stock of his priorities. He also claimed that the pandemic-related doubts played a big part in his decision to skip the defence of his US Open title.

Rafael Nadal expressed his happiness

While he claimed each award is special, the 20-time Grand Slam champion admitted the latest one was particularly emotional and unexpected. "Every one is special, no? I don't know if it's the most emotional for me, but this is probably the most unexpected," Rafael Nadal said.

He also claimed that winning titles, while always a difficult task, has become even tougher as he has got closer to his mid-30s. "I hate to talk about me in that way," Rafael Nadal said. "But of course to repeat the title for these 13 times, in some way you need to be a little bit better than the others in that tournament.

Because if you are equal, it's very difficult to be lucky enough to achieve all this. Winning titles, for me, has always been difficult," he added. "And today for sure is even more difficult, because at the age of 35 (he turns 35 in June), normally it is more difficult to win titles than when you are 25."