Rafael Nadal remained humble when questioned about his status as the greatest tennis player ever on clay Monday. The Spaniard is widely regarded as the best on the red dirt having won 54 of his 76 men’s singles titles on his favorite surface.
The 31-year-old has dominated the clay court tournaments on the ATP Tour in the last decade with very few players getting the better of him during that period. Even the mighty Roger Federer failed to conquer Nadal on his favorite surface with the Swiss ace teasing victory just twice in their 15 meetings on clay.
Nadal admitted he did not even dream it was possible to have the amount of success he has had on clay during his career. There is no player in the history of the game that has as many titles as the Spaniard on clay.
He has won the ATP’s four major clay court tournaments — the Monte Carlo Masters a record 11 times, the Barcelona Open 10 times, the Madrid Open five times and the Italian Open seven times. These tournaments precede the most prestigious one on the red dirt which is the French Open at Roland Garros, where Nadal has triumphed an unprecedented ten times.
Nadal has won his first title of 2018 at the Monte Carlo Masters. In this picture, Rafael Nadal of Spain holds his winners trophy after winning the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters against Kei Nishikori of Japan during day eight of ATP Masters Series: Monte Carlo Rolex Masters at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club in Monaco, April 22, 2018. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
“I didn’t dream anything of what I achieved. You can dream of achievable things,” Nadal said Monday before he begins his quest for an 11th Barcelona Open title, as quoted in Tennis World USA. “11 Monte Carlo, 10 Barcelona, 10 Roland Garros is something I couldn’t imagine or dream. At 14 years old you dream to play these tournaments.”
Does this achievement make Nadal the greatest ever player on clay? It certainly does, according to a number of former and current players. But the 16-time men’s singles Grand Slam winner remained humble when asked about it Monday by simply saying he “does not like to speak about it.”
“I am not the one to have to say it. With all the humility, numbers are what they are. I tried all my life to avoid these answers. I don’t like to speak about it,” he said.
The Spaniard is currently the number one ranked player in the world but to remain so until after the French Open, he has to defend his titles in Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. If not, long-time Federer will return to the summit in the ATP men’s singles ranking.
Nadal, however, is not concerned about the overall rankings, and revealed that his attention is more on the ranking race for the 2018 season — the rankings that start from zero every year and is accumulated based on the player’s performance during the season. It culminates with the top eight singles player playing the ATP Finals in London.
The Spaniard is currently in fourth place in the race to London behind Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. But a successful run in the upcoming clay court tournaments can see him move to the top before the start of the grass court season in June, when Federer will return to action.
“I don’t care whether I defend 1,000, 2,000 or 500 points. Every year I start from zero. The ranking of defending points is only needed for the seedings. I look at the Year-Race and with the win in Monte Carlo, I am fourth in the Race. If I lose here, I could drop in the rankings but what I am interested in is the Race,” Nadal said.
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