With yet another French Open title, Rafael Nadal's win over Novak Djokovic proved that he's not only the best player on clay courts right now, but possibly one of the greatest of all time.
Despite playing one of the best tennis players in the world, Nadal was able to take Djokovic down in a very tiring four sets, winning 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4. The win gave Nadal his ninth French Open final, which is two more than any tennis player has ever won in any Grand Slam event.
"It's not impossible, but it's very, very difficult to stay with Rafa in this court, throughout the whole match, on the highest level of performance," Djokovic said about Nadal's performance, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "It's normal that you have ups and downs."
With a win like this one, Nadal officially proved he's an all-time great on clay.
Over his career, Nadal has won 64 career titles, including 14 Grand Slam titles. The majority of that success has come on clay courts, winning 45 titles and going a ridiculous 318-24 on that surface. During his career at the French Open, Nadal has gone an incredible 66-1, losing just once back in the fourth round in 2009.
|Rafael Nadal Career Record by Surface|
According to ESPN Stats & Info, those 45 clay titles are just one behind all-time leader Guillermo Vilas, and Nadal is only 28 years old:
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch also points out another unbelievable statistic, as he tweeted that Nadal is 90-1 in best-of-five-set matches on clay:
Of course, Nadal still has a ways to go before he starts breaking all-time records on clay, but he still has plenty of tennis left to play. According to ATPWorldTour.com from back in April, Nadal was No. 11 all time in clay-court wins, but now he's at No. 10.
It will be a while before he breaks the all-time record held by Vilas, who has 644 wins on clay, but no one in the top 10 has a winning percentage anywhere close to Nadal's, with Ivan Lendl coming closest at just .814.
Lately, the biggest challenge Nadal has had to face on clay has come against Djokovic. After the win against him in the finals at Roland Garros, Nadal is now 14-4 against Djoker on clay, with more than a few matches going into extra sets, according to TennisAbstract.com.
Nadal admitted after the latest match that he was drained by the end, according to Greg Garber from ESPN.com, saying:
Physically I felt I was totally empty, drained, exhausted. I don't know. Five sets, I don't know if I could have played a five-set match. I was not feeling well at all physically speaking. Well, motivation and also the hope that I could perhaps win this match, win the tournament, the appetite I had, well, these are the reasons why I managed to stick to it to the very end.
Djokovic isn't going to go away, either. The 27-year-old has six career Grand Slam titles, but he's never won the French Open, falling in the finals twice in 2012 and 2014 to Nadal. He's now made it to at least the semifinals in four straight years, and he's fighting as hard as he can to get his first French Open title.
Still, even if Djokovic does end up taking down Nadal and finally winning the French Open, Nadal will still be known as the greatest player on clay of this generation, if not ever.
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