Will Nadal win Roland Garros again? Statistical analysis shows how clay brings out his best


He’s the undisputed best-ever clay court player with 11 victories at the French Open and a 12th in his sights for 2019. How do the numbers back up his utter domination of professional tennis on red clay? Here tennishead highlights the facts behind his clay court superiority


When Rafael Nadal lost six and four matches on clay in 2015 and 2016 respectively, it seemed his aura of invincibility might be fading. In his previous 11 seasons he had never lost more than three clay-court matches. However, the last two years have reconfirmed Nadal as the undisputed king of clay.

In that time he has suffered only two defeats on the surface, both to Dominic Thiem. Although Nadal has won Grand Slam titles on hard courts and grass, in every year of his career he has won a greater percentage of his matches on clay than on other surfaces.

Between his defeats to Igor Andreev in Valencia in April 2005 and to Roger Federer in Hamburg in May 2007, Nadal won 81 clay-court matches in a row. Only one player has ever beaten him more than three times on clay, Novak Djokovic having recorded seven victories over his great rival on the surface.


Clay-court wins over Nadal since 2006

Novak Djokovic: Madrid 2011, Rome 2011, Monte Carlo 2013, Rome 2014, Monte Carlo 2015, French Open 2015, Rome 2016

Dominic Thiem: Buenos Aires 2016, Rome 2017, Madrid 2018, Barcelona 2019

Andy Murray: Madrid 2015, Madrid 2016

Fabio Fognini: Rio 2015, Barcelona 2015

Roger Federer: Hamburg 2007, Madrid 2009

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Madrid 2019

Fabio Fognini: Monte Carlo 2019

Juan-Carlos Ferrero: Rome 2008

Robin Soderling: French Open 2009

Fernando Verdasco: Madrid 2012

Horacio Zeballos: Vina del Mar 2013

David Ferrer: Monte Carlo 2014

Nicolas Almagro: Barcelona 2014

Stan Wawrinka: Rome 2015

Pablo Cuevas: Rio 2016


Tour-level victories over Nadal on clay prior to 2006:

Gaston Gaudio: Hamburg 2003, Bastad 2004, Buenos Aires 2005

Olivier Rochus: Mallorca 2002

Guillermo Coria: Monte Carlo 2003

Alex Corretja: Barcelona 2003

Nicolas Lapentti: Bastad 2003

Fernando Gonzalez: Stuttgart 2003

Carlos Moya: Umag 2003

David Ferrer: Stuttgart 2004

Olivier Mutis: Palermo 2004

Igor Andreev: Valencia 2005


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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.