Competing in the Rome Open semi-final against Reilly Opelka, Rafael Nadal secured another massive Open era record that should stay in his hands for the years to come. Namely, Rafa played his 500th ATP match on clay versus the American, becoming the seventh player in the Open era to achieve that after Guillermo Vilas, Manuel Orantes, Jose Higueras, Thomas Muster, Ilie Nastase and Eddie Dibbs.
Not playing that many tournaments on clay as the mentioned player, Rafa needed 16 incredible years on the slowest surface to achieve that number, becoming the first player in the Open era with 500 encounters on two different surfaces!
This record will take some beating in the future, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Nadal still holds it after 15 or 20 years. You have to produce great numbers on clay to achieve it, especially if you don't play that many events on the slowest surface, which was the case with Nadal.
Rafael Nadal became the only player in the Open era with 500 matches at two surfaces.
The clay-court specialists may reach that number, but they need at least 30 matches on clay every season for over 16 years, which is incredibly tough to achieve.
Besides that, you also have to stay competitive on hard courts during that period, and it should be interesting to see if anyone will follow Nadal's feat in the next couple of decades. Nadal claimed the 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome and tenth at Foro Italico, beating Novak Djokovic in the final to lift the second title of the season.
Ahead of Roland Garros, Rafa has played 501 ATP matches on clay and turned them into mind-blowing numbers. The Spaniard has won 459 out of 501 encounters and claimed 62 titles from 106 tournaments played! Out of those 62 ATP crowns on clay, 46 have come at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, four out of five most important events on the slowest surface, alongside the Madrid Masters.
Between 2005 and 2007, Rafa embraced an incredible streak of 81 consecutive triumphs on clay, setting another Open era record and adding 50 straight sets won on his beloved surface in 2017 and 2018. Nadal is the favorite at Roland Garros, seeking the 14th crown at his favorite Major, where he scored 100 victories from 102 matches since 2005!