To say that tennis virtuoso Rafael Nadal is a dominant force on clay surfaces might be a bit of an understatement. In a career that now includes 22 Grand Slam titles and over $130 million in career earnings, his most impressive accomplishment is what he has done in Paris, France throughout his 21-year career. His 14 victories in the French Open might well be one of the greatest records that will never be rivaled in individual sports.
At the ripe old age of 36, Nadal started the 2022 French Open as the 5th seed. It mattered not to the Spaniard as he breezed through the field, only losing a total of three sets on the way to the title. Along the way, he dispatched the #1 seeded Novak Djokovic in four sets in the quarter-finals. It was an unusually epic matchup for a quarter-final. These two are more used to facing off in finals and semis.
After a dominating win (6-3, 6-3, 6-0) in the finals against the 8th seeded Casper Ruud, Nadal was deservedly beaming over what he had accomplished. One would have to wonder what French Open officials were thinking when they relegated Nadal to the 5th seed. Clearly, they failed to read up on the history of their very own tournament. For that matter, what were bookmakers thinking when they pegged Nadal as the 3rd choice at +400?
Nadal’s March Towards the Calendar Slam
Nadal’s victory in the French Open comes on the heels of his victory in the Australian Open earlier this year. This victory in the French Open puts him in a position to contend for the calendar-year Grand Slam of tennis as he heads into Wimbledon in late June. Should he claim victory at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, only the U.S. Open in August would be standing in his way of ultimate tennis glory.
Of course, the road through Wimbledon will not be an easy one to travel. While Nadal’s prowess on clay is legendary, he has never been quite as effective on grass courts. In fact, he has only claimed two Wimbledon titles, with the last one coming almost 12 years ago in 2010. That was the same year he missed the Grand Slam by a single tournament when he was forced to prematurely retire in the 3rd set of the Australian Open quarter-finals.
As for past success at the U.S. Open, he has won four times with the last one coming in 2019. So overall the possibility of a Calendar Slam is not too likely. And it’s made unlikelier by the foot injury Nadal is dealing with on an ongoing basis.
King of the Clay
Numbers don’t lie. If anyone has any doubts about just how good Nadal is on clay surfaces, here are some numbers that should remove any doubt.
Nadal has appeared in 18 French Opens, winning 14 of them while losing in the 4th round in 2009, quarter-finals in 2015, and withdrew in the 3rd round in 2016 because of a wrist injury. He was also beaten in the 2021 semi-finals when Djokovic beat him in four sets. His overall French Open tournament match record is an astounding 112-3 (97%).
To be clear, his clay prowess goes beyond his favorite tournament in Paris. His overall record on clay is 474-45 (91%). Of his 92 career victories, 63 of them have come on clay surfaces. Hence our #1 rule of tennis betting: Always Pick Nadal On Clay.
At an age when most tennis players should be applying for retirement, Nadal seems to have found the Fountain of Youth. He has already won four tournaments this year with one other runner-up finish at Indian Wells in California. This is a remarkable resurgence for tennis’ top all-time earner after going through two consecutive years (2020-2021) where he only won two tournaments each year. Clearly, the Spanish wizard has only one thing left on his bucket list of potential accomplishments. A Calendar Slam would be the icing on the cake for this tennis great.