As early as 2005, Rafael Nadal was one of the most promising players in the ATP tour. The Spanish champion had won his first Roland Garros and would soon have won several ATP titles. The Majorcan, who was considered a huge red clay specialist, had been forced to skip the Australian Open in early 2006 due to a foot injury.
The former World number 1 had quickly redeemed himself on his beloved clay court, where he had defeated Roger Federer in the Monte Carlo final and Tommy Robredo in Barcelona. Nadal did not let Federer escape even in Rome and Roland Garros, breaking the record of 53 consecutive victories of Guillermo Vilas on red clay.
During that edition of the Parisian Slam, many fans will remember the exciting battle with the host Paul-Henri Mathieu that lasted almost five hours in the third round. During an interview with ‘We Are Tennis France’, Mathieu spoke about that afternoon on the Philippe Chatrier.
Mathieu on Rafael Nadal’s forehand
“On clay, I have never felt a ball as heavy as that of Rafael Nadal in the racket. Forehand, it is indescribable, one has the impression of having a truck which arrives at 200 km / h,” Paul-Henri Mathieu said.
“To give an idea, if you don’t anticipate the rebound, you have no chance of controlling the ball,” he added. Nadal has been the most successful player in history on clay courts. He has a 59–8 record in clay court tournament finals and has lost only twice in best-of-five-set matches on clay.
He has won 12 French Open titles (12–0 in French Open finals), 11 Monte-Carlo Masters and 9 Rome Masters, and won at least one of the three clay-court Masters Series tournaments every year between 2005 and 2014. His 9th Roland Garros crown in 2014 made him the first man in the Open Era to win the same tournament 9 times, breaking a 32-year record held by Guillermo Vilas, who won the Buenos Aires title 8 times, the last being in 1982.
He is the only male player to win the French Open and the US Open in the same year four times (2010, 2013, 2017, 2019). Ivan Lendl (1986,1987) and Rod Laver (1962,1969) attained this twice. Nadal has a stand-alone record of 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles, 51 finals and 72 semifinals.
Because of these many accomplishments, as well as his career winning record (60%) against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal is considered by some sports analysts and players to be the greatest male tennis player of all time.