Seven Extraordinary Facts About Rafael Nadal’s French Open Career - UBITENNIS
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Seven Extraordinary Facts About Rafael Nadal’s French Open Career

UbiTennis takes a closer look at the King of clay and his remarkable run of success at the clay court Grand Slam.

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Despite only being able to play three competitive matches on the clay heading into this year’s French Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic Rafael Nadal remains the heavy favourite and with good reason.

The world No.2 is the most successful player of all time to have ever played at the event which dates back to 1891. He holds an array of records at the major and has incredibly won 23 more matches than any other player on the ATP Tour. His current tally stands at 93 wins compared to second place Roger Federer who is on 70.

It’s Nadal. Even though he lost (at the Italian Open), I still think a lot of people will agree, he’s the No. 1 favourite. The record that he has there and the history of his results you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” Djokovic said of his rival last week.

To put into perspective Nadal’s remarkable run at the clay-court major, here are seven things to know about his French Open career so far.

He won on his very first attempt

Nadal’s love affair at Roland Garros started back in 2005 when he was only 18. Yet to contest a major final, the Spaniard was seeded fourth in the men’s draw and impressively dropped only three sets en route to the title. Scoring consecutive wins over David Ferrer, Federer and Mariano Pueta to become only the sixth Spanish man to win the tournament in the Open Era.

When I arrived at Roland Garros for the first time in 2005, as always, I took it match-by-match, but I was aware that if I could play as well as I had played in the previous tournaments I had a chance,” Nadal reflected on the milestone.
“I was brimming with energy, the lack of awareness of someone so young and clearly I was capable of reaching important balls, that were very difficult, returning them with power, with intensity and playing with enormous passion.”

Nadal is one of only two men to have won the French Open title on their debut in the Open Era. The other was Mats Wilander who triumphed back in 1982.

Most decorated of all time

15 years on from when he lifted his first trophy, Nadal has won Roland Garros a record 12 times. Something that hasn’t been achieved by any other player since the Open Era began. Within that period the only time he didn’t win the tournament was in 2009, 2015 and 2016. Although in 2016 he withdrew during the tournament due to injury.

Prior to Nadal, the record for most men’s titles won belong to Frenchman Max Decugis who won the tournament eight times between 1903 and 1914.

Nadal’s tournament record
Champion – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019
Quarter-finals – 2015
Fourth round – 2009
Third round – 2016 (retired injured before the match)

Only twice has he been beaten

The 34-year-old has an incredible 97.9% winning rate at the tournament after winning 93 out of 95 matches played. The only players to have beaten him are Robin Söderling and Novak Djokovic. Söderling, who was the 23rd seed in the 2009 tournament, stunned Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, in the fourth round. Then in 2015 Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 6-3, 6-1, in the quarter-finals. Both of them went on to reach the final but failed to win the title that year.

Three of his title triumphs saw him go 21-0 in sets played

In 2008, 2010 and 2017 Nadal roared his way to the title without dropping a single set. Other players to have achieved the milestone in Paris include Ilie Nastase in 1973 and Bjorn Borg in both 1978 and 1980.

It was in 2008 when Nadal recorded his most one-sided win in a final at the French Open after crushing Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Only twice has he been taken to the full distance

What does Djokovic and John Isner have in common? They are the only players to have taken Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros. Isner was the first to do so during the first round of the 2011 Championships and had a two-set lead at one point before the Spaniard battled back to prevail 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Two years later in the semi-finals Djokovic battled on court for more than four-and-a-half hours before falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 9-7.

Overall Nadal has played 304 sets in his French Open career and has won 277 of them. Working out as a 91% winning rate.

The prize money

So far in his career Nadal has earned $22,051,715 in prize money due to his success in the French capital. To put the figure in perspective, only 21 players in ATP history have earned more than that throughout their entire careers.

In comparison, Federer has made $18,719,106 at Wimbledon where he has won the title a record eight times. Meanwhile, Djokovic has claimed $19,885,780 in winnings at the Australian Open which he has also won eight times.

Overall Nadal’s career earnings stands at 121,044,734 which is the third highest of all-time. Almost a fifth (18.2%) of that is from Roland Garros alone.

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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Andrey Rublev Reflects On Recent Struggles Ahead Of Monte Carlo Title Defence

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Andrey Rublev admits he continues to struggle to maintain his emotions on the court after his disqualification from a tournament earlier this year.

The Russian world No.6 hopes to get back on track after a disappointing American swing where he won just one out of three matches played. In Indian Wells, Rublev beat ex-No.1 Andy Murray before falling in straight sets to Jiri Lehecka. Then in Miami, he lost his opening match against Tomas Machac. 

“At Indian Wells, I was so focused on trying to control my movements that I was completely stuck,” the 26-year-old recently commented
“I had no energy left, I had no strength. And in Miami, I exploded. I could no longer control myself, my actions, my nerves. I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t move.”

As to why Rublev felt so paralyzed, he acknowledges it could be linked to an incident that happened earlier in the season. At the Dubai Tennis Championships he was defaulted from his semi-final clash against Alexander Bublik for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was accused of saying an obscenity in his native language at an official. He then successfully appealed against the penalty and retained the ranking points and prize money he earned, barring a fine of $36,400 for a code violation.

“Maybe what happened in Dubai remains in my mind,” said Rublev. 

Rublev’s focus now switches to his title defence at the Monte Carlo Masters. It is the only Masters 1000 event he has won so far in his career. 

“I feel better. These last two weeks I have been training a lot. But it’s one thing to train well, it’s another to play well in a match.” He evaluated of his current form. 

Rublev has yet to defend a Tour-level title so far in his career. Should he do so, he will become only the fifth player in the Open Era to win multiple Monte Carlo trophies. 

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