Rafael Nadal is universally acknowledged as the king of clay. He is the proud owner of almost all the clay court records, and he has carved a niche for himself on the red dirt. But there is one clay record that the Spaniard might not break in his career.
Nadal has won a record number of titles at the three main clay court competitions. He has won five Madrid Open titles, nine Italian Open titles, and a mammoth 13 French Open titles. Given the statistics, one might think that Nadal has won the most number of clay-court matches in history. But that is not the case.
A legend in the 70s, Guillermo Vilas holds the record for the most wins on clay. Vilas has a staggering 681 wins on the clay court, and he has a respectable win percentage of 79%. Nadal, on the other hand, is way behind Vilas.
In fact, Nadal is third on the list of most clay-court victories. Although Nadal leads the clay court title count, he lags way behind Vilas in terms of match wins. Nadal has won 445 clay-court matches which is 236 match wins behind Vilas.
But first Nadal will have to cross Manuel Orantes, who is second. Orantes has 569 match wins on clay, and that in itself is a tough ask for Nadal.
Why Rafael Nadal might be unable to cross Guillermo Vilas’ record?
Nadal isn’t young anymore. He will turn 35 in 2021 and has only a handful of years left until his retirement.
Nadal is still an elite player but as he gets older, the record will be tough to beat. On an average, Nadal plays 30-40 clay matches a year. This means that he will have to play at his top level for the next six years to beat Vilas’ record of 681.
With Nadal on the wrong side of the 30s, it is tough for Nadal to break Vilas’ record. The 2020 French Open champ might just be able to break Orantes’ record and move to 2nd in the all-time list.