A player needs to remain competitive for more than ten years in order to complete 500 matches on one surface. After having one dominating style of court, it is nearly impossible to include the second surface in the narrative. That was accomplished by Rafael Nadal in 2021, making him the first player in the Open era to have 500 ATP matches on both hard and clay!
In the Masters 1000 final in Rome in 2021, Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic to win his 36th championship. Rafa set a huge milestone the day before by defeating Reilly Opelka in the semifinal, setting a mark that should stand for a very long time.
On clay, against the American, Nadal competed in his 500th ATP match. He joined Guillermo Vilas, Manuel Orantes, Jose Higueras, Thomas Muster, Ilie Nastase, and Eddie Dibbs as the seventh player in the Open era to accomplish so. Rafa required 16 fantastic years on the slowest surface and considerably less tournaments than the player mentioned to reach that total.
After surpassing the 500-match milestone on hard, the Spaniard became the first player in the Open era to have 500 meetings on two different surfaces! This record will be challenged in the future, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Nadal was still the only player to hold it after 15 or 20 years.
If you only enter a few events on the slowest surface each year, as Nadal did, you need to produce large numbers on clay to do it.
Only Rafael Nadal has played 500 games on two surfaces throughout the Open era.
In order for the clay-court experts to attain that figure, they must play at least 30 matches on clay every season for more than 16 years.
In addition, it’s important to maintain your competitiveness on hard courts throughout that time. It will be intriguing to see if anyone surpasses Nadal‘s feat in the coming two decades. In Rome and at the Foro Italico, Nadal won his tenth Masters 1000 title and 36th overall.
At that point, Rafa had played 501 ATP matches on clay, which are astounding numbers. The Spaniard won 62 championships from 106 competitions and 459 out of 501 matches! Four of the top five tournaments on the slowest surface, together with the Madrid Masters, hosted 46 of those 62 ATP titles on clay: Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome.
Rafa established another Open era record by winning 81 straight matches on clay between 2005 and 2007, and he added 50 more sets on his favorite surface in 2017 and 2018! Nadal extended his supremacy at a cherished Major by winning his 14th Roland Garros title last year at the age of 35, stopping the clock once more.