With 62 ATP titles, Rafael Nadal is the most decorated player on clay in the Open era. Nadal’s achievements have mainly been linked with the slowest surface, conquering 13 Roland Garros crowns and numerous Masters 1000 titles on his beloved dirt. Rafa’s first ATP title came in Sopot in August 2004, two months after turning 18. Next spring, Nadal became the world’s finest clay-courter, conquering his first Masters 1000 trophies in Monte Carlos and Rome and crowning his streak with the Roland Garros title. In his darkest years on the Tour in 2015 and 2016, clay was Nadal’s rescue surface, winning at least a few titles and remaining in the top-10. Rafa was back at his best from 2017, and he delivered the 13th Roland Garros crown in October 2020 following a brilliant performance and perfect victories in all seven encounters! Nadal’s last year’s clay-court swing was not that good, winning two titles after fending off match points in Barcelona and Rome and falling to Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros semi-final.
Rafael Nadal is not the defending champion at any of the ATP events on clay.
Still, it was miles ahead of what he has shown this spring, struggling with injuries and experiencing the worst run on his beloved surface in 18 years! Rafa failed to defend the Roem Masters crown this week, and he is without an ATP clay-court title for the first time since August 2004! Despite many injuries in the past 18 years, Rafa had always been a winner of at least one title on clay in the span of 12 months. That streak has ended following the third-round loss in Rome, and Nadal will travel to Paris without the status of the favorite after constant foot issues. Rafa played only two more tournaments in the rest of the previous season after Rome, struggling with his left foot and wrapping up the year in early August.
The Spanish veteran made a perfect comeback at the Australian Open, securing the 21st Major crown and winning the season’s first three events. Nadal had a chance to fight for the fourth in Indian Wells, injuring a rib injury and falling to Taylor Fritz in the final. Rafa skipped six weeks and lost the rhythm ahead of the clay swing. Nadal withdrew from Monte Carlo and Barcelona and was not ready to fight for the titles in Madrid and Rome. Rafa lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid quarter-final and experienced an even earlier loss in Rome. The Spaniard struggled with a foot pain against Denis Shapovalov, and he can only hope for a better run at Roland Garros that starts in less than ten days.