Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal labelled ‘unbelievable’ by beaten Roland Garros finalist

Rafael Nadal has been applauded for his dominance at Roland Garros by beaten 2022 finalist, Casper Ruud, who described the Spaniard as ‘unbelievable’.

Nadal has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires on 14 occasions which is double the the closest singles champion, Chris Evert (7), in the Open Era.

The Spaniard won his 14th Roland Garros title last year when he beat Ruud, 6-3 6-3 6-0, in the final.

The Norwegian has spoken about the experience of playing his ‘idol’ at his most dominant tournament, “If you want to beat Rafa at Roland-Garros, when you are going out to the match, you are thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to have to play the best match of my life for at least four-and-a-half hours because even though I’m playing great, he will play unbelievable back’.”

He continued, “If I play well, he [Nadal] plays well, so it’s going to be a long match. Not many players are prepared to do that I think and that’s why you have seen some of the clay court players be so successful on clay.”

Since Nadal won his first title at the Paris major, in 2005, there have only been three other winners, Novak Djokovic (2016 and 2021), Roger Federer (2009) and Stan Wawrinka (2015).

While they only have three Roland Garros titles between them, Ruud has offered heavy praise to both Djokovic and Federer on their clay credentials.

“Novak and Roger, they are probably the second-best ever clay-court players. It’s just that it’s never really talked about because Rafa has all these records, so it’s tough,” said Ruud.

“You feel like maybe if you play Rafa on grass or whatever, Rafa has obviously won Wimbledon twice, so he is really good on grass, but you feel like, you can at least go out there and smack some winners and make him uncomfortable. On clay, you can’t really do that because he has the time to set up his shots, he has the time to play good defence.”

Ruud added, “If he’s on it and he’s playing well, there is really not much you can do, unless you are able to match his game, which very few people in the world can do on clay.”

Rafael Nadal defeats at Roland Garros

Nadal has only ever lost 45 career matches on clay, with a win record of 91.3% on the surface.

His record at Roland Garros is even more impressive, as he has a 97.4% win record, with only three defeats in his 115 matches.

Here are Nadal’s three rare defeats at the clay major:

2009 – Nadal lost in the fourth round to Robin Soderling (23), 2-6 7-6(2) 4-6 6(2)-7

2015 – Nadal lost in the quarter-final to Novak Djokovic (1), 5-7 3-6 1-6

2021 – Nadal lost in the semi-final to Novak Djokovic (1), 6-3 3-6 6(4)-7 2-6

Despite currently being on the sidelines from an injury he obtained at the Australian Open, in January, Nadal is expected to challenge for a remarkable 15th Roland Garros title this year.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.