Rafael Nadal: Why the 'King of Clay' reigns in Paris

Rafael Nadal is known as the "King of Clay" and it's not for his pottery skills.The 16-time grand slam champio...

Posted: Jun 1, 2018 12:22 PM
Updated: Jun 1, 2018 12:22 PM

Rafael Nadal is known as the "King of Clay" and it's not for his pottery skills.

The 16-time grand slam champion has won an unprecedented 10 French Open titles and is odds-on favorite to win an 11th.

Spaniard seeks 11th French Open title

Nadal has only lost twice in Paris

Pat Cash and Mats Wilander give their views

No player in history has won as many grand slam titles at a single tournament.

The Spaniard won the French Open on his debut as a 19-year-old and came into this year's event with a 79-2 win-loss record at Roland Garros.

Recently, he compiled a remarkable streak of 25 straight victories on clay and also set a record of 50 consecutive sets won on a single surface.

But what makes the greatest clay-courter of his generation so good on the slow red dirt?

Former grand slam winners Pat Cash, Mats Wilander and Yannick Noah talked CNN Sport through the Mallorcan's game.

READ: Who can beat the King of Clay in Paris?

READ: Why Rafael Nadal is all at sea during his time off

Athleticism

"He's unbelievably fast, and he can keep going forever, which helps on the clay," Australia's Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, said in an interview at Roland Garros.

"He keeps getting the ball back, his speed and athleticism is just phenomenal.

"His footwork on the clay is amazing, I don't think I've ever seen anybody move that quick on the clay."

Top spin

Nadal's technique also sets him apart.

"We have never seen a player hit so much top spin before," said Cash, who now coaches American Coco Vandeweghe.

"The power he puts into the shots and the top spin is just very, very hard to control on a slow court over five sets.

"The quicker the courts get, the harder it is going to be for him to actually create that top spin and the ball skidding through.

"But when he has a little bit of extra time, and he can move back further and give himself more time to hit, he's able to hit the ball with more spin, which enables the ball to bounce higher and push the opponent around."

Mental strength

In addition to his technical abilities, Nadal's mental strength is what truly sets him apart from the rest of the field.

"Mentally, he's just ferocious," Cash said.

"Clay is one of the toughest surfaces to be successful at, because you have to be focused all the time, the momentum can change very quickly.

"On grass or other courts, you can hold your serve, or hit a couple of big serves and stay in it, but not on the clay, you have to be persistent all the time."

Rainy day

For Nadal to lose at Roland Garros for only a third time, three things need to happen, according to three-time French Open winner Wilander.

"Rafa has to play somebody he is intimidated by in terms of talent, it has to be a rainy, wet day here at Roland Garros and Rafa must not play very well," the former top-ranked Swede told CNN in Paris.

Nadal excels when it's hot as his heavy top-spin shots kick up high -- rain tends to dampen one of his main weapons, according to Wilander.

"With Alexander Zverev, I think we are seeing the building of the perfect player who could beat Rafa," he adds.

Visit CNN.com/tennis for more news, features and videos

"He's tall, a great two-handed backhand, a big serve, a bit reminiscent of Robin Soderling, the tall Swede who beat Rafa here once."

Noah, the only French man since 1946 to win at Roland Garros when he beat Wilander in the 1983 final, says you have to think outside of the box to beat Nadal.

"I'd serve under arm and I'd hit only drop shots," he jokes in an interview with Cash for CNN's Open Court at Roland Garros.

"And if he's at the net I'd hit it at him. You have to try something."

West Lafayette
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Kokomo
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 80°
Rensselaer
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Fowler
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 80°
Williamsport
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 83°
Crawfordsville
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 79°
Frankfort
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Delphi
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
Monticello
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
Logansport
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Hotter & turning much more humid for the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 72254

Reported Deaths: 3023
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15503725
Lake7447274
Elkhart476082
Allen3789161
St. Joseph337381
Hamilton2668105
Vanderburgh188813
Hendricks1833106
Cass17749
Johnson1719118
Porter126639
Clark117846
Tippecanoe117711
Madison91565
LaPorte88330
Howard87265
Kosciusko84012
Marshall77122
Bartholomew76647
Floyd76045
Monroe72230
Delaware70152
Dubois67612
Boone66246
Noble65929
Hancock64138
Vigo58610
Jackson5725
Warrick57030
LaGrange55610
Shelby54227
Grant52130
Dearborn49328
Morgan45934
Clinton4093
Henry37320
Wayne35410
White35410
Montgomery34821
Lawrence33627
Decatur33232
Harrison32123
Putnam2868
Miami2672
Daviess26320
Scott26310
Greene24634
Franklin23813
Jasper2272
DeKalb2264
Jennings22012
Gibson2144
Steuben2063
Ripley1977
Fayette1837
Perry18112
Carroll1772
Starke1767
Posey1670
Orange16624
Wabash1633
Wells1622
Fulton1612
Jefferson1552
Whitley1506
Knox1490
Tipton1336
Spencer1313
Washington1311
Huntington1213
Newton11510
Randolph1154
Clay1095
Sullivan1031
Adams952
Jay860
Owen841
Pulaski761
Rush744
Brown731
Fountain682
Blackford622
Ohio624
Benton600
Pike520
Parke511
Vermillion500
Switzerland450
Crawford440
Martin430
Union370
Warren221
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events