Rafael Nadal: Only Good On Clay?

Nadal won his 10th French Open title and 15th Grand Slam singles 37 days ago.

(Illustration by @stefrosselli)

Well, where does one begin with?

One could only prevent people from claiming that Rafael Nadal is a one slam wonder or can only win titles on clay by making Rafael Nadal play on a tennis tour comprised of clay tournaments only. Voila! — problem solved.

The circuit could be named as the Association of Clay Tennis Professionals and players who would accept not to ever play on the ATP World Tour would then only be allowed to take part in the ACTP. Just like the ATP, the Association of Clay Tennis Professionals would have the 4 coveted Grand Slam tournaments, the clay being the only surface of course. But with a twist, the first major would be played on blue clay rather than the commonly used red clay. The French Open would no longer be a part of the ATP World Tour and hence the second major on the Association of Clay Tennis Professionals. The third major, while still maintaining the great tradition of playing on a green looking surface, would be played on green clay, the tournament would be called Wimbleclay. And to keep the customs and traditions in check and aligned players will have to be entirely dressed in red attire, any other color would not be tolerated. The last major of the season would be a half-red, half-green clay court and winning there would be considered prestigious . And would be the only barometer to determine whether a player is the ultimate clay-courter or not. I would like to deny that it’s a reference to the Battle of Surfaces exhibition match that Nadal and Federer played, on May 2, 2007, which Nadal won.

I would like to believe that, that exhibition was the one after which people started respecting Nadal and giving him the credit he deserved — because how else could you have weighed Nadal as a great player if he had not beaten Federer on the most beautiful tennis surface on the face of the planet Earth, right? Nadal did actually went on to defeat Roger a year later at Wimbledon and halted his efforts of becoming the first male player to win 6 consecutive Wimbledon titles in the Open Era.

Nadal playing on the ACTP would save his skeptics and naysayers a lot of time and from headache because every time when he has won a title on clay, comparisons have been made as to how many titles he has won on surfaces other than clay, it has been discussed and analyzed at great length about his position among the greats if we were to cut out his 10 French Opens. As if clay isn’t a part of tennis, as if it’s unearthly and has forced its way into tennis.

So Nadal just playing on a tour composed of clay tournaments deters his doubters from making those comparisons, simple — because, for them, Nadal hasn’t played 5 Wimbledon finals and won 2 of them, for them he hasn’t been in 4 Australian Open finals and won one in 2009 against Roger Federer, for them he never won 2 US Open titles out of the 3 finals he played there, facing Novak Djokovic on all three occasions. For them he never reached 16 hard court finals on the ATP Masters 1000 level and won 8 of them. And he definitely didn’t win the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles. The 16 hard court single titles in total and 4 titles on grass that he won have no value, obviously. And he certainly isn’t the first man in the Open Era to win 35+ matches on both hard courts and clay courts in the same season.

With the US Open Series approaching, Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters being the biggest tournaments of the Series, which leads up to the last major of the year, US Open, one can hope that Rafael Nadal would repeat his success of 2013 where he won both the tournaments along with the US Open trophy.

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