Known as the “King of Clay,” Rafael Nadal has dominated the French Open ever since his first tournament in 2005.
The Spaniard’s reign on the clay of Roland Garros has been unprecedented and has been one of the surest things in tennis history.
It continued on Sunday with Nadal’s straight sets victory over Dominic Thiem that gave him his 11th French Open title, good for the most at a single major in the Open Era and tying Margaret Court for the most in tennis history.
To put in context just how preposterous a stat 11 titles at one Grand Slam is, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras are the next closest with eight and seven victories respectively, at Wimbledon. Those two players have the most (Federer, 20) and third most (Sampras, 14) Grand Slams titles in the history of men’s tennis. Nadal has now upped his total to 17 with his latest trophy.
Not only did Nadal’s win pull him another title closer to Federer’s all-time Slam record, but it also tied him for the most finals appearances (11) at one major, with all of Federer’s coming at Wimbledon.
The mind-boggling stats only get wilder from there.
This year, Nadal dropped just one set in the entire tournament. That’s the sixth time in the fourteen French Opens he’s played that he’s lost one or fewer sets. He also lost just one in 2007 and 2012. On three occasions Nadal won Roland Garros without losing a set (2008, 2010, 2017), becoming the third man in the Open Era after Ilie Năstase and Björn Borg to do so.
In all fourteen French Open appearances combined, Nadal has lost just 25 sets. In case you can’t do that math in your head that’s less than two sets per tournament — and that includes the three times he didn’t win the title.
Another dominant statistic that might go unnoticed is that the King of Clay has only gone to five sets twice before, and he won both times. The first came in 2011 against John Isner in the first round and the second against Novak Djokovic in the 2013 semifinals.
Speaking of semifinals, Nadal is perfect when he has reached that round with an 11-0 record — and of course, an 11-0 record in finals appearances as well.
His career record at Roland Garros might be the most staggering number of all. Since his first French Open appearance in 2005, Nadal has gone 86-2 with one withdrawal. That’s two losses in 14 years.
That record gives him a winning percentage of 97.7 in Paris. The next closest mark for any men’s player at a single tournament is Björn Borg who went 51-4 at Wimbledon with a 92.7 win percentage.
Nadal’s absurd level of success at Roland Garros is a microcosm of his sheer dominance on clay in general. The Spaniard is a routine winner at the other clay tournaments on the ATP World Tour. He has a record 11 wins at both the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open, eight at the Rome Masters (Italian Open) and five more at the Madrid Open.
In his entire career on clay, Nadal has a 415-36 record, giving him a winning percentage of 92.0 — the best of any player on any surface in men’s tennis history.
Nadal’s reign on the red clay of the French Open is a well-documented one — he’s referred to as the King of Clay, after all — but breaking down the numbers makes it all the more impressive and it stacks up even higher when compared to other tennis greats.
After it looked like injury struggles might end the Spaniard’s run as a top player in the sport, it’s a welcome sight to see one of the game’s best return with two straight French Open titles and sitting atop the ATP rankings.
The wildest part of it all is that, even at 32, it doesn’t look like Nadal will be slowing down at Roland Garros anytime soon.