If you polled tennis fans about the greatest men’s players of this century, three names would appear on everyone’s list: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. The latter’s recent victory at the 2019 U.S. Open is proof that Nadal belongs. The Spaniard holds many tennis records. Here are seven of his most untouchable ones. (All stats courtesy of the ATP)
Highest winning percentage overall
Nadal’s career win-loss record is 966-106. That gives him a jaw-dropping winning percentage of .831. No player has ever totaled a higher winning percentage, which puts Nadal ahead of Bjorn Borg, 644-135 (.827); Djokovic, 877-144 (.826); and Federer, 1,227-267 (.821).
While Federer and Djokovic could conceivably catch up to Nadal, it would mean they’d have to keep playing (and winning) well past the time Nadal retires. Djokovic may, but Federer likely will not. While Nadal’s record-setting winning percentage shows how good he is on all surfaces, there’s one court Nadal is particularly dominant on.
Highest winning percentage on clay
Nadal is notorious for being gold on clay. His win-loss record on his favorite surface is 436-39, good for a winning percentage of .918. How exactly has the 33-year-old been so overpowering on this surface? FiveThirtyEight breaks it down:
“Rafael Nadal is likely more dominant at clay-court tennis than any other athlete is at any one thing. Winning a set, let alone a match, against Nadal on clay can seem almost hopeless … It’s possible Nadal’s greatest advantage is that he turns an element of the game that’s a weakness for so many others into a weapon: the second serve. He has had more success on his second serve than any player in tennis history, and on clay, his prowess here is even more pronounced.”
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise which Grand Slam event Nadal has been most prolific at winning since he turned pro.
Number of wins at the same Grand Slam
No player has dominated one Grand Slam event like Nadal has the French Open. He’s won at Roland Garros an astonishing 12 times. The Spaniard’s first victory there was in 2005 — also his first win in a Grand Slam ever. It comes as no surprise, as the clay courts are well suited to Nadal’s style.
Most consecutive years winning a Grand Slam
Between 2005 and 2014, Nadal won a Grand Slam every year. This has yet to be equaled. He had a couple of impressive mini-streaks within that record; he once won four consecutive French Opens, and another time he won five.
Longest winning streak on one surface
From 2005 until 2007, Rafael Nadal went unbeaten on clay. No other player can boast a winning streak of this length on any surface. Nadal’s streak was broken by his only true competition at the time, his ultimate rival, Federer.
Youngest player to win a career Grand Slam
When he won the 2010 U.S. Open, Nadal became the youngest player to win a career Grand Slam at the age of 24. His first wins at each Grand Slam event came at the following ages:
- 2005 French Open: 19 years old
- 2008 Wimbledon: 22 years old
- 2009 Australian Open: 23 years old
- 2010 U.S. Open: 24 years old
Least number of career Grand Slam events before winning a career Grand Slam
Nadal isn’t just the youngest player to win a career Grand Slam. He also did it in the least amount of Grand Slam events. It took Nadal only 26 Grand Slams before he completed the career Grand Slam.