Rafael Nadal Set for Another Dominant Clay Court Season

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 5, 2013

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 21: Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand against Gilles Simon of France in their semi-final during day seven of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters, at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club  on April 21, 2012 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Aside from death and taxes, the one sure thing in life is that Rafael Nadal will dominate on clay.

The 26-year-old tennis superstar had a successful return following a disturbing seven-month layoff to rest his aching and injured left knee. He cruised to clay court singles titles at the Brasil Open and Mexico Open in February and March, respectively, and proved he can still navigate hard courts by winning at Indian Wells two weeks later.

So it comes as no surprise that heading into April's European clay season, Nadal is once again the man to beat.

After all, Nadal has won a record eight consecutive singles titles in Monte Carlo, six championships in Rome and seven of the last eight in Barcelona. And his greatness at the French Open requires little explanation: He's the only man in the Open era to have won seven Slams at Roland Garros.

Nadal has been a magician on clay since bursting onto the scene nearly 10 years ago, winning more than nine out of every 10 of his singles matches and consistently out-classing the world's best players on the surface.

Just take a look at how well Rafa has fared against the world's current top four players on clay over the course of his career: 12-2 against Novak Djokovic, 4-0 against Andy Murray, 12-2 against Roger Federer and 14-1 against David Ferrer.

He won the 2005 French Open, despite playing the Grand Slam event for just the first time.

Nadal's 52-1 career singles record at the French Open speaks for itself. It points not only to his unrivaled success on clay, but his dominance on his favorite surface, the one he grew up playing on.

When the game slows down, the ball bounces higher, and the rallies last longer. And Nadal is at his very best.

That's why he's set for another dominating round of clay-court tournaments this spring.

Forget Nadal's ATP world ranking (No. 5), forget the competition and forget his sore knees.

Until he is dethroned at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome or Paris, he will remain the king of clay and the player to beat this time of year.


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