Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon congratulates the Spaniard on two new milestones.
The Good Life
It’s been fun having and watching Rafael Nadal play tennis over the course of his Hall of Fame career.
But you know what must be even better than having watched and supported him all these years since he turned pro in 2001? That’s right, actually being Rafa Nadal.
The Spaniard has enjoyed a typically fruitful 2020 season, adding two titles to his resume, winning all but five of his matches so far and capturing something like $3.4 million in prize money. A clear highlight was yet another title in Paris for a 13th Roland-Garros crown, and 20th major title overall.
If this year made anything clear it’s that his dominance on clay is as reliable as death and taxes. If the Spaniard managed to grab the big clay prize in this lost season, where Roland-Garros moved around the schedule and was played in the wrong season (i.e. fall rather than spring) and with the wrong balls, then surely there is nothing anyone else can do on any given day.
Roland Garros Title No. 13
There is also nothing anyone else can do, also, about the three massive milestones that the man reached over the past few weeks. First he notched career win 100 in Roland-Garros on his way to career title No. 13 at the event and major No. 20. Then came the 1,000th win of his illustrious career, in the first round of the Rolex Paris Masters against countryman Feliciano Lopez. Finally, the big one, came last week when the Spaniard notched a 790th straight week as a member of the Big 10.
These are all, as the kids would say, quite a big deal. First, the Spaniard has cemented his firm grip on the title of the greatest clay court player of all time, a distinction for which he has rendered any possible doubt or debate utterly inconsequential. On clay court in men’s tennis, it’s Nadal and everyone else after him. But of course, this is nothing new and Nadal’s dominance has been so ridiculous over the years that it’s become expected and, frankly, boring. Let’s never take it for granted ever again.
As for the rest, well this is where things get exciting and interesting. Because for someone who plays such a physical and relentless style, and for someone who’s actually battled injuries a few times, Nadal’s longevity is stunning. Nadal is only the fourth man to notch 1,000 career wins on the ATP after Ivan Lendl (i.e. at 1,068), Roger Federer (i.e. at 1,242) and Jimmy Connors (i.e. at 1,274); whether he manages to catch up to Federer or Connors is a moot point. Just that he got there gives him another way to distinguish himself in the race for the greatest of all time, which is probably the end point here: how, exactly, can I differentiate myself from my two main rivals for the title of greatest men’s tennis player of all time?
A staple in the Top 10
To that end, Nadal’s record 790 straight weeks inside the Top 10, a streak that started way back in April 2005, works wonders as it’s a mark that no one is in any real position to equal. Will this mark ever be broken? Perhaps, maybe even probably. But it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, which is good enough for us.
The going could get even better if things can break right for him at the Nitto ATP Finals over the next couple of days. Given how things have unfolded at that event throughout his career, it may be unlikely to break just right.
But with the way it’s been going for Nadal, you just never know.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG