Rafael Nadal: The Best Ever on Clay?

Nikil RamanathanCorrespondent IMay 30, 2016

After Rafael Nadal's beat down of Roger Federer at the French Open, the question must be asked. Is Rafael Nadal the greatest clay-court player ever?

The numbers are staggering. He is a ridiculous 28-0 on the courts at Roland Garros giving him four straight French Open titles. In fact this year, he was more dominant than ever.

As the tournament wore on, he only got better.

In the second week, as the competition became stiffer, he lost a total of just 22 games in four matches.

And, of course, he won this year's tournament without dropping a single set, the first since Bjorn Borg to do so at the French.

Speaking of Bjorn Borg, he had been considered the greatest ever on this surface since his dominance in the late 70s and early 80s. He has won six French Open titles, two more than the number Nadal currently sports.

Then again, Nadal is just 22 years old. With his fitness, there is no doubt he will have a good chance at the French for another five-plus years. And it just seems that there is no player who can test Nadal on these clay courts.

Novak Djokovic came the closest to Nadal. That is, the closest to winning a set. He forced Rafa to a third-set tiebreaker where Nadal persevered to a tough win in the semifinals.

But make no mistake about it; Novak Djokovic is a more than satisfactory player on this surface.

In fact, I would say that if he had met Federer in the semis, Djokovic would have taken that match.

The fact that Nadal destroyed both these players in six quick sets in the span of three days is astounding.

Anyone who has watched Nadal for the past four years knows how good this guy really is.

His spin works to perfection on this surface and from the baseline he can slug it out with anyone, including Federer. Even his serve gets a bit extra pop and spin on the clay.

And he isn't afraid to come to net, where he has shown he can finish the point with ease.

After watching the past three French Open finals matches between Federer and Nadal, I have grown further in appreciation for the Spaniard's game. 

Two years ago, Nadal ousted Federer in four sets, but it was quite an entertaining match.

Federer took the first set in under twenty minutes by a score of 6-1, and we all thought that Federer would pull it off.

After all, we knew Nadal was good on clay (he had beaten Federer a year prior in the semifinals), but we did not know the magnitude of his greatness on this surface. 

Three hours later, Nadal pulled out a 7-6 fourth set tiebreak, capping off his second French Open title at age 20.

Last year, it took him a tough four sets to put away the world's number one, but Nadal appeared to be in control throughout.

And then this year was something else.

Nadal was in control from the first point and he cruised to a quick 6-1 lead. In the second set, he fell in a bit of trouble, facing a break point at 3-3, but once he saved it, it was all over.

He secured the game, then went on to take eight straight en route to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 demolition of the best player in the world.

What impressed me most about Nadal was his humility. He seemed to be in more pain than Federer after the beat down. He was apologetic in victory and acknowledged that Federer was still the best in the game.

He also went on to say that Borg was the best ever on clay and that he was happy to just be mentioned in the same sentence as the all-time great.

With that being said, who is the greatest ever? Borg or Nadal? Borg may have two more than Nadal, but the Spaniard is closing in fast.

Rafael Nadal simply dazzles on the clay and as far as I see it, when he calls it quits, he will go down as the greatest ever on the clay.

But for now, Borg deserves the title as the best ever. But after Borg watched Nadal's obliteration of Federer, he knows his record is in jeopardy.