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Is Nadal set for a 'dirty dozen' in 2019? Great Spaniard going for incredible 12th titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 13 Apr 2019
  • Can Rafael Nadal continue his incredible clay-court dominance in 2019?
  • Nadal will be seeking an incredible 12th titles in each of Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros over the next two months
Rafael Nadal is going for his 12th Monte Carlo title

To win a single tournament 11 times is extraordinary enough, but to do it at three different tournaments is simply ridiculous. That is the story of Rafael Nadal on clay, and the King of Clay is not done yet.

57 of Nadal's 80 career titles have been on the dirt, 33 of which have been evenly split between Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros. No other man has won a single tournament 11 times in the Open Era, Nadal has done it at three different venues.

Can Nadal complete the dirty dozen in 2019, or will his stranglehold be broken?

Nadal has been so dominant on clay that it has almost become normal that he should win everything on the surface, but ahead of the Spaniard’s return to the dirt in Monte Carlo, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of just a few of the outrageous numbers this man has put together on the surface, especially at his most productive hunting grounds at Monte Carlo, Roland Garros and Barcelona.

Eight Rome titles and five Madrid titles are not bad at all, but those numbers are dwarfed by his “undecima” in the three other key clay-court stops.

Nadal has lost nine matches at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo and Barcelona combined, and he is 212-9 at the three tournaments- 86-2 at Roland Garros; 68-4 in Monte Carlo and 58-3 in Barcelona. 

Read also: Monte Carlo Masters draw preview and predictions

There was a brief period a few seasons ago when his clay-court regime appeared to be over- he went three years between 2013 and 2015 without winning the Monte Carlo title, he fell before the semi-finals in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015, and failed to make the last four at Roland Garros in 2015 and 2016, but the great Spaniard has returned with a vengeance in the last couple of seasons, amassing a staggering 50-2 record on clay from the start of the 2017 season. Dominic Thiem, who stopped Nadal in Madrid in 2017 and Rome in 2018, is the only man to have beaten the King of Clay in the last two seasons.

During that period, Nadal set a new record of 50 consecutive sets on clay- no other man has managed that on a single surface in the Open Era, while he also crossed the 400-win mark on the dirt, stretching his all-time clay-court record to 415-35. Nadal has smashed virtually every clay court record in existence, but one that will most likely elude him is Guillermo Villas’ 659 match wins on the dirt. In fact, Nadal is only fourth on that list, with Manuel Orantes (502 wins) and Thomas Muster (422 wins) also above the great Spaniard on the all-time list. However, Nadal has played far less matches than these three men, and he owns a significantly better win percentage (92.2%) than Villas, Orantes and Muster.

One other thing he hasn’t done is to complete a clean sweep of clay-court titles across his regular stops in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Having come close in the last couple of seasons- could this be the year when the legendary Spaniard performs that feat?

An intriguing clay-court season lies ahead with Nadal being the obvious favourite, but he faces stiff competition from Novak Djokovic, who is a French Open title away from holding all four major titles at the same time for the second time in his career. Dominic Thiem is always improving, and will be buoyed by his Masters 1000 success at Indian Wells, while Roger Federer returns to clay after a two-year absence.

Djokovic’s resurgence in the last nine months, stamped by a crushing victory over Nadal in the Australian Open final, would have created a genuine cause for worry amongst the Nadal clan, with the Serbian making a strong case to be considered as the man to beat on clay, but that case has been weakened by the Djokovic’s recent results at Indian Wells and Miami, as he failed to reach the quarter finals in either tournament. Still, the world No. 1, who currently holds three of the four majors, and has beaten Nadal in nine of their previous 11 meetings presents a formidable obstacle to the Spaniard’s ambitions over the next two months.

Apart from Djokovic, and to a lesser extent, Thiem, Federer and Alexander Zverev, Nadal’s biggest hurdle in the upcoming clay-court season is his fitness. He has had all sorts of injury problems in the last six months, and recently missed the Miami Open because of a knee problem.

Nadal has managed to get himself in supreme shape for clay in the last two seasons, and if his body holds up again, it’s hard to bet against him continuing this remarkable clay-court dominance in 2019. Rome and especially Madrid have proven to be problematic in the past, but he’s got the dirts of Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros under his spell, and he could be on to a dirty dozen in each of those three venues in the next few weeks.

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Is Nadal set for a 'dirty dozen' in 2019? Great Spaniard going for incredible 12th titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros

Can Rafael Nadal continue his incredible clay-court dominance in 2019?

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