Why has nobody stepped up to defeat Nadal at FO?

NonP

Hall of Fame
Because we haven't had a strong (men's) field on clay since the mid-aughts or so. It's easy to say Nadal is just too good even at his advanced age but that facile canard, in addition to its obvious speciousness, looks like a total load of crap when you realize RG finalists can't even manage 30% of RGW against the whole field:


Historically it's the 40% threshold which all but guarantees a FO that or some other season at least. Now you still need a certain amount of firepower which is why Diego despite his 40% in RGW will never be a serious FO contender, but it does speak volumes that a HCer like Thiem was being touted as the next successor to the CC throne as recently as 2019 when he has yet to crack the all-important overall 60% on dirt:


And what about since COVID, you ask? Given how much NextGen sux on return you shouldn't be surprised that only Novak seems capable of offering any meaningful resistance to Rafa, as you can tell from this list of non-FO champs who managed to crack the 60% mark or came reasonably close to it:


As you can see Sinner's 58.1% last season (if you can call 2 events a season) would be nothing to write home about in a stronger era (the earlier years are almost certainly missing several names cuz I only bothered to look at those within striking distance of 60%). And while Tsits has the #s this season - a whopping 90.7% in SGW and 31.9% in RGW for a combined 61.9% - his career SGW% stands at 84.5% and I remain skeptical that he'll be able to keep it up for a whole fortnight at RG, especially following his loss to Novak at Rome.

So we're left with 34-year-old Djoko who ain't even holding serve 80% of the time so far (76.9%, if you care). Like I said you still need a minimal level of artillery on dirt and I'm aware of no (male) player in the past 30 years who was able to go all the way at RG with such a paltry SGW%.

Having said that... Rafa is definitely vulnerable this time, with "only" 36.1% in RGW (fairly ho-hum by his ridiculous standards) and a good but unremarkable overall 59.2% which if it holds will give him his 1st under-60% season since... '04 (let that sink in for a sec). Can Nole or Stef capitalize on this and pull off the unthinkable? My $$$ is still on Rafa, but for once you wouldn't be crazy betting on someone else.
 

mtommer

Hall of Fame
1. Nadal just is that good

2. The clay at RG is even more conducive to his topspin and weight of shot

3. Courts like Chatrier and Lenglen have a huge amount of space at the back and the sides, giving him more time to set up shots, retrieve balls. And also helpful given his deep return stance - he doesn't have to worry about being in the stands

4. It's too much of a mental burden for most players to take 3 sets off him given all the above. They know they need to be zoning for at least 3 hours.

5. Despite his weaker recent form, the massive aura he has established further enhances problem #4. The time to beat him would have been while he was still trying to establish an aura back in 2005 or 2006.
I would only add that this tendency of winning the FO despite other clay court losses put to the forefront of just why Slams are the greatest determining factor for GOAT candidate. While the other clay court titles are nice to win, they are absolutely warmups for the FO and Nadal's efforts ramp up accordingly.
 

ADuck

Legend
Historically it's the 40% threshold which all but guarantees a FO that or some other season at least. Now you still need a certain amount of firepower which is why Diego despite his 40% in RGW will never be a serious FO contender, but it does speak volumes that a HCer like Thiem was being touted as the next successor to the CC throne as recently as 2019 when he has yet to crack the all-important overall 60% on dirt:
Maybe due to differing racket technology which raise average service game won %
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
I don’t buy the argument at all that he was injured in the 2009 French Open and genuinely think this is an excuse from Nadal fans.
Yes, and Nadal himself committed to the great hoax of the 2000s conjured by his fans by skipping half the season, losing to basically everyone until 2010, and permanently running at least half a step slower from then onwards
 
D

Deleted member 771911

Guest
It's even more absurd that his two main rivals on the red stuff were 2 GOAT contenders and they could not beat him there, bar one year. That's incredible that Federer had several goes and could only take a set off him in the final.
 

JustMy2Cents

Hall of Fame
To answer the OP's query, if the opponent steps up at RG, he gets passed.
If he stays back, he gets drop-shotted.
If he tries the drop shot, he gets lobbed or drop-shotted back at an impossible angle.
If he rallies, he's out-rallied.
There's pretty much a master class conducted by the undisputed King of clay!

Enjoy some vignettes of the last 4 years:

 
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MichaelNadal

Bionic Poster
To answer the OP's query, if the opponent steps up at RG, he gets passed.
If he stays back, he gets drop-shotted.
If he tries the drop shot, he gets lobbed or drop-shotted back at an impossible angle.
If he rallies, he's out-rallied.
There's pretty much a master class conducted by the undisputed King of clay!

Enjoy some vignettes of the last 4 years:

Savage :D
 

FranzS

Rookie
A freak of nature with winning mentality. No one's beaten Bolt's 100m record in 12 years for example
 

EllieK

Hall of Fame
Because it’s a heck of an ask. Rafa simply creates magic on that court. I’m hoping one of the young guys can challenge for these big trophies soon, because it’s getting really old for me to see one of the big 3 winning everything. That’s one of the reasons I paid attention to Stan and Andy and loved it when they won one.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Maybe due to differing racket technology which raise average service game won %
Yeah that's definitely a factor. Here's a breakdown by decade* of all the CC seasons since '91 with top 20 players in RGW% (minimum 100 games except 75 for 2020) who failed to crack 30% (unrounded), with the total # in parentheses:

1990s - none
2000s - 2007 (3), 2009 (3), 2010 (9)
2010s - 2012 (9), 2013 (7), 2014 (2), 2015 (8), 2016 (6), 2017 (12), 2018 (9), 2019 (10), 2020 (7)

*I'm cheating a bit with the '90s as 1991-2000, so on.

So RGW%s have clearly been on a downward slope since '91, but as you can see the top 10 so far have managed to post 30% or higher in every CC season except one ('17). And of course almost everyone plays the same HC tennis everywhere these days, which also brings down the %s (while upping the SGW%s, yes). Now the fact that we've had 9 FO finalists (5 if you remove duplicate appearances by the same guys) who failed to win 30% of their return games since '05, as opposed to only 2 before, seems even more telling, no?
 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time but he has still lost numerous matches at ATP 500 and ATP1000 clay tournaments yet his RG record is almost perfect.
He's not that bad in the 1000s and 500s on clay either. Madrid is a different kettle of fish because of the altitude but MC, Barcelona and Rome are not far behind RG in number of titles. Rome - 10, MC - 11, Barcelona - 12, Roland Garros - 13.
 

ewiewp

Hall of Fame
Does anyone else find it slightly bizarre that Nadals consistency at Roland Garros is just absurd ?
Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time but he has still lost numerous matches at atp500 and atp1000 clay tournaments yet his RG record is almost perfect. Djokovic did defeat Rafa but the only player I feel to legitimately defeat a well playing Nadal at RG was Soderling. I don’t buy the argument at all that he was injured in the 2009 French Open and genuinely think this is an excuse from Nadal fans.
I just don’t understand how it’s possible a near 35 year old which is ancient in tennis terms can potentially get a 14th FO title in the next few weeks, why aren’t other players stepping up to try and stop this ?
Nadal is either too good and makes the competition look bad, or the competition is that pathetic that Nadal can win this thing with his eyes shut. A player like Federer in his prime would crush any version of the Nadal of today on clay so why don’t the “next gen” try and adapt this into their game and consider it a challenge to go all out and try and beat him. I think 99% of players lose before the first point is even played because they are so defeatist. Only Djokovic has the heart to try and take him on and even he can’t get the job done....so what’s the crack here, why is Nadal winning so many titles ?
You still do not know after 13 RGs in 15 years?
 

Sunny014

Legend
Federer of 2006 would also lose to Nadal of 2020 in 5 sets at the French Open.

Federer is just impotent on clay vs Nadal

Just accept it.
 

kevaninho

Hall of Fame
The same can be said on grass too.

I mean, Djokovic and Federer in the last editions final?

Why has no one stepped up there either?

Theres no way the big 3 should still all be getting to the SF of Wimbledon, with an almost 40 year old , barely losing the final.

Djokovic wasnt that impressive in 2019, yet still won it.

These young kids only seem to want to play on HCs for some reason.

Lazy ass generation.
 

Ray Mercer

Hall of Fame
It simply comes down to the sport being in shambles right now. There are no young great talents. Tennis is becoming even more of a niche sport. It’s sad to see.
 
Injured players don't defend like Nadal did in that match against Soderling's bombs.

If anything, the guy had some discomfort that was aggravated after the Soderling match.
The other players can't defend like Nadal nor do they have the will to fight through injury like Nadal does, so you can't even establish a valid comparison to sustain your inane claims.
 

Carax

Professional
All this jinxing man. He's an amazing player, and I don't think anyone will match his record at RG, but the guy's going to start losing at one point.

He could use the same phrase that the great rationalist D. Thiem coined back in the beginning of the 21st year of the 3rd millennium: "I'm not a machine".
 

Patogen

Rookie
To answer the OP's query, if the opponent steps up at RG, he gets passed.
If he stays back, he gets drop-shotted.
If he tries the drop shot, he gets lobbed or drop-shotted back at an impossible angle.
If he rallies, he's out-rallied.
There's pretty much a master class conducted by the undisputed King of clay!

Enjoy some vignettes of the last 4 years:

Haha, I was gonna post something similar. There are 4 ways to play Nadal at RG and all of them are wrong.
 

Hitman

Talk Tennis Guru
Haha, I was gonna post something similar. There are 4 ways to play Nadal at RG and all of them are wrong.
No. There is s fifth way. Robin Soderling 2009 style, massive bombs from both sides painting the lines...though very very hard to pull off.
 

Hitman

Talk Tennis Guru
The same can be said on grass too.

I mean, Djokovic and Federer in the last editions final?

Why has no one stepped up there either?

Theres no way the big 3 should still all be getting to the SF of Wimbledon, with an almost 40 year old , barely losing the final.

Djokovic wasnt that impressive in 2019, yet still won it.

These young kids only seem to want to play on HCs for some reason.

Lazy ass generation.
True.
 

blablavla

G.O.A.T.
Nadal is also declined. I don't see how are 2017-2021 the "dark days of clay", but 2019-2021 not "the dark days of the AO". By your logic, Djokovic only has had as rivals a declined Nadal, a 1HBH player in Thiem who only challengued him one year and basically a bunch of unexperienced, uninterested, or simply overmatched opponents.

Double standard detected.

Nadal wins RG: dark clay era.
Djokovic wins the AO: everything is fine.
you are correct here
in both cases the right answer is weak era
 

xFedal

Legend
Because we haven't had a strong (men's) field on clay since the mid-aughts or so. It's easy to say Nadal is just too good even at his advanced age but that facile canard, in addition to its obvious speciousness, looks like a total load of crap when you realize RG finalists can't even manage 30% of RGW against the whole field:


Historically it's the 40% threshold which all but guarantees a FO that or some other season at least. Now you still need a certain amount of firepower which is why Diego despite his 40% in RGW will never be a serious FO contender, but it does speak volumes that a HCer like Thiem was being touted as the next successor to the CC throne as recently as 2019 when he has yet to crack the all-important overall 60% on dirt:


And what about since COVID, you ask? Given how much NextGen sux on return you shouldn't be surprised that only Novak seems capable of offering any meaningful resistance to Rafa, as you can tell from this list of non-FO champs who managed to crack the 60% mark or came reasonably close to it:


As you can see Sinner's 58.1% last season (if you can call 2 events a season) would be nothing to write home about in a stronger era (the earlier years are almost certainly missing several names cuz I only bothered to look at those within striking distance of 60%). And while Tsits has the #s this season - a whopping 90.7% in SGW and 31.9% in RGW for a combined 61.9% - his career SGW% stands at 84.5% and I remain skeptical that he'll be able to keep it up for a whole fortnight at RG, especially following his loss to Novak at Rome.

So we're left with 34-year-old Djoko who ain't even holding serve 80% of the time so far (76.9%, if you care). Like I said you still need a minimal level of artillery on dirt and I'm aware of no (male) player in the past 30 years who was able to go all the way at RG with such a paltry SGW%.

Having said that... Rafa is definitely vulnerable this time, with "only" 36.1% in RGW (fairly ho-hum by his ridiculous standards) and a good but unremarkable overall 59.2% which if it holds will give him his 1st under-60% season since... '04 (let that sink in for a sec). Can Nole or Stef capitalize on this and pull off the unthinkable? My $$$ is still on Rafa, but for once you wouldn't be crazy betting on someone else.
There is a first time for everything? Nole made it his life long mission to avenge last years defeat to Rafa, you could see it from his roar at the end of the Berretini match that the mightiest warrior Ultron was ready.
 

Beckerserve

Legend
There is a first time for everything? Nole made it his life long mission to avenge last years defeat to Rafa, you could see it from his roar at the end of the Berretini match that the mightiest warrior Ultron was ready.
Not much of a revenge though to beat a declined 35 year old. About as relevant as beating Federer in his 30s at W.
 
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