Rafael Nadal Is The King Of Clay

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Rafael Nadal has written his name in history books as the only player to win a dozen grand slam titles on the same court (Margaret Court won her 12 Australian Open titles at different venues), which also puts him four clear of Federer’s eight championships at Wimbledon and Novak Djokovic’s seven in Melbourne. Nadal moves to 18 majors, two behind Federer, three ahead of Djokovic.

Not even a spirited challenge by the world No 4, Dominic Thiem, could stop the 33-year-old Spaniard winning the French Open for a 12th time on Sunday, a feat unlikely to be matched in their lifetimes, if ever.

In his previous 11 finals only a handful of players have detained him longer than Thiem: Mariano Puerta on Nadal’s winning debut as a teenager in 2005, Roger Federer three times and Novak Djokovic in his toughest final, seven years ago. But a string of dazzled contenders have fallen with embarrassing haste – most notably Federer, when Nadal took only an hour and 48 minutes in allowing him only four games in 2008.

On Sunday, Court Philippe Chatrier was Nadal’s again, and for ever. There surely is a case to rename the stadium – or some part of Roland Garros – after the Spaniard when he retires. He owns the place metaphorically and spiritually already.

“It is incredible. I am very, very happy,” Nadal said. “It is something very special. It is difficult to imagine winning so much in the same place, particularly here at Roland Garros. You cannot say it is a dream, because I never dreamed of such a thing.”

Nadal confirmed later that long-term and recurring injuries eased just long enough for him to compete here. “I have had a very difficult year with a lot of physical problems. One month ago I didn’t even know I would be here. For me, the simple fact of having tried, having trained well in the last weeks to come back, is my biggest satisfaction.”

But Nadal says he is content with what he has achieved. “You cannot be thinking ‘one more’ all the time, otherwise you are never happy. You want more money, a bigger house, a new boat, an even prettier girlfriend! You cannot be happy like that – I don’t like the frustration. You have to thank life for all that it gives you.”

For the foreseeable future the game’s four biggest prizes remain the property of the old guard. The Big Three of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have shared 10 successive grand slam titles. The last player outside the exclusive club to disturb their hegemony was Stan Wawrinka, who defeated Djokovic to win the 2016 US Open.

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