There are many great victories to select from when it comes to picking out Rafael Nadal’s highlights on clay, as his prestigious and historic records would testify.
The Spaniard burst onto the screens of tennis fans with his maiden Grand Slam title victory at the French Open in 2005, which was the spark of a magical relationship between Nadal and Roland Garros, which he has gone on to win a further seven times, suffering only one defeat there in his entire career so far.
He has amassed an unprecedented record on the red surface, and holds the record of 81 consecutive clay court wins.
Ahead of the first Masters series event of the year on clay beginning this weekend in Monte Carlo, we take a look back at the top ten moments that have defined the now 27-year-old as the “King of Clay."
10) Monte Carlo Masters Final 2005
vs Guillermo Coria (6-3, 6-1, 0-6 ,7-5)
The then 19-year-old Nadal, who had already taken victory in two clay court tournament finals earlier that year in Costa Do Sauipe and Acapulco, showed he was made of stern stuff when defeating Coria, who was known as a specialist on clay and reached the final of the French Open the previous year.
This was the first Masters Series title the Majorcan had captured, and he followed it up with a five-set win over the same player in the final of the Rome Masters less than a month later, which ended with a fifth-set tie-break.
9) Davis Cup Final 2009
vs Thomas Berdych (7-5, 6-0, 6-2)
Nadal hadn’t taken part in the final when Spain won the competition the previous year, but he played a key role in helping his country retain their trophy and win the Davis Cup for the third time, as they whitewashed Czech Republic 5-0.
It was a swift victory in Barcelona in the first rubber of the tie to set his team on their way, which came at the end of an injury-troubled year for Nadal, and it paid testament to his character that he was able to put his team first and finish the year on a high.
8) 2011 Davis Cup Final
vs Juan Martin Del Potro (1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6)
Not only was Nadal part of a Davis Cup winning team for the second time in three years, but this time he was able to seal the victory against Argentina.
Having beaten Juan Monaco in the first rubber of the tie at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville, this win sealed it at 3-1 for the home team, which was sealed with a 7-0 tie-break victory.
7) Monte Carlo Masters Final 2012
vs Novak Djokovic (6-3, 6-1)
No player had ever won the same tournament for eight consecutive years, but that was before the likes of Nadal came along.
This win over his Serbian opponent made it 48 wins in a row in Monaco, and he was to go on to win his seventh French Open title the following June.
6) Rome Masters Final 2006
vs Roger Federer (6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6)
The crowds were starting to become used to epic encounters between these two, and this five-hour long match was no exception.
Nadal remained undefeated against Federer on clay, but only by the skin of his teeth, as he only secured victory by winning the fifth-set tie-break 7-5.
5) French Open 1st round 2006
vs Robin Soderling (6-2, 7-5, 6-1)
It may have been a simple opening victory on the way to his second French Open crown, but it marked Nadal’s 54th consecutive win on clay, breaking Guillermo Vilas’ record.
His sensation run came to an end in May 2007, which began in April 2005 when he was beaten by Federer at the Hamburg Masters.
4) 2013 French Open Final
vs David Ferrer (6-3, 6-2, 6-3)
Nadal has a knack for breaking records, and in beating his compatriot in last year’s final at Roland Garros, he became the first male player to win a single Grand Slam tournament eight times and the first to win at least one Grand Slam in nine consecutive years.
The match itself was very much a one-sided affair, and was at one point interrupted by a protestor on court, forcing play to be delayed, Nadal was not to be deterred from making yet more history.
3) French Open Final 2005
vs Mariano Puerta (6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5)
Some have to wait for a number of years to put a Grand Slam trophy into the cabinet, but Nadal announced himself to the world at the age of 19 with this impressive win over his Argentine opponent.
The careers of both finalists went in opposite directions, as Puerta was given an eight-year ban the following December for failing a drugs test for the second time in his career.
2) French Open Semi-Final 2005
vs Roger Federer (6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3)
This was a victory that forced the tennis world to stand up and take notice of the young starlet, and he proved he could perform at the highest level when he knocked out a player who was ranked at world number one and had won four Grand Slams, a total which would rise to 17.
Nadal had shown he could mix it with the very best earlier in the year, when he had held a two sets to love lead over Federer at the final of the Miami Masters, though he had gone on to lose on that occasion.
But he gained revenge at his first ever Roland Garros tournament, inflicting the first of only three defeats Federer would suffer that year, and it was the first of 11 meetings between the pair in Grand Slam matches, and this win sent him to his first Grand Slam final.
1) French Open Final 2008
vs Roger Federer (6-1, 6-3, 6-0)
This was the third year in a row that the two stalwarts of modern tennis had met in the final of Roland Garros, and it was Nadal who came out on top for the third consecutive year.
Federer has rarely suffered such a convincing defeat before or since, and it took just 108 minutes for Nadal to romp to his fourth consecutive French Open title, in the year that also saw him become the Wimbledon and Olympic champion.
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