Rafael Nadal: The Best French Open Tennis Player Ever?

Kevin PahlauContributor IIIJune 6, 2011

Rafael Nadal has six French Open titles.
Rafael Nadal has six French Open titles.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Sunday's championship win by Rafael Nadal at the French Open comes with a few questions.

One of those questions is this: Will Rafael Nadal become the best clay court player ever?

His win at the 2011 French Open matches Bjorn Borg's six French Open titles. One title is a great achievement by any player. To have six French Open titles is a momentous accomplishment, yet one that brings pressure to win a seventh and break the record held by Borg since 1981.

Can Rafa break the record? It is more plausible than not.

Rafael Nadal grew up playing on clay tennis courts. That's not unusual. Most European players train and play on clay courts before becoming professional.

What separates him from the rest is how natural he performs on this surface. He is not put off by playing on clay. It is almost second nature to him.

Nadal is only 25 years old. He is still young enough in tennis terms to conceivably pursue and contend for another French Open title.

Rafa is a confident player but not arrogant. His confidence may be shaken at times, as it was admittedly at this year's French Open, but he can usually fight through the mental doubts that seep into his mind.

If the negatives begin to build while playing on clay, he has the story lines of six past titles to draw inspiration from.

Nadal's athletic ability is one of his strongest weapons. Clay can be a volatile surface to play on. It contains more variables than most surfaces. Add weather changes to this such as wind, dampness, or overly dry conditions, and you have more than just an opponent across the net to contend with. Because of Nadal's fitness and athleticism, he is able to adapt to the constant changes presented to him.

Full sprint or sliding into position are accomplished with ease on clay.

Rafael Nadal has a passion for the game. The passion can be seen in his eyes at any moment during a match. That intense passion is not always a characteristic other players have. This passion naturally increases when performing during a major. He is always cognizant of what is at stake and pursues the goal with a visible passion.

There are many variables that stand in the way of any player when pursuing a tournament title or a major championship title.

If Rafael Nadal can stay healthy and hold onto the characteristics and abilities he currently has, he will achieve something most players would find unattainable.