Nadal’s legacy on clay? Tsitsipas and Ruud respond

The Norwegian and the Greek reflect on their influence

April 28, 2024

Alberto Nevado/Mutua Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal thanks the public for their support at the Mutua Madrid Open.
By Staff

Rafael Nadal has achieved excellence on a terrain where it would be normal to lose direction. No other surface requires as many hits as clay, which multiplies the decisions to be made and, therefore, the possibilities of making mistakes. The challenge to patience that it poses, with a permanent demand for work, places the reward outside of the immediate. In an impossible challenge for the impatient, a very clear reality is written in clay: few shortcuts lead to the goal and suffering is a path with no major alternative. No one has mastered that record like the legendary Spanish player.

Those who wish to know glory in the future will have an ideal mirror in which to look at themselves.

His legacy on the surface is an example strongly pursued by Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, two players who are bidding to take the baton with ocher-dyed socks. After sharing the crowns of Barcelona and Monte Carlo, chaining the two finals that open the powder tour on European soil, the Norwegian and Greek reflect on the impact that Nadal has had on their knowledge of the game. Beyond an influence, an example to follow and a daily inspiration to fight for his dreams.

“Many of the big clay tournaments I have won are due to his example,” explained Tsitsipas, one of the most prominent players on the platform at the moment. Former Roland Garros finalist and three-time ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo champion, the Greek was full of praise for the Spaniard. “His game is a source of inspiration for other players, who try to emulate the best qualities that he has on a clay court. It is something he has done extraordinarily for over a decade.”

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Tsitsipas speaks with experience in his own hands. The Greek has used the figure of Nadal as a learning model, observing every virtue of the Spaniard to hone his skills in the locker room. His record demonstrates the fruits of the study: Stefanos is one of the few who beat Nadal in the Caja Mágica in Madrid and managed to have match point against the Mallorcan in a final in Barcelona, ​​something that no other player achieved.

“In my case, I try to apply in my game some of the things that he handles effectively and precisely. I feel that he has been a great example of how tennis should be played on clay,” stressed the Greek, who has won 104 of the 136 games played on the surface throughout his career. “After all, he is the best player we have ever had in our sport. It will be a shame not to see him again in Madrid. “He has put together some stellar performances and has broken records that I believe will never be broken again.”

Above the numbers, Nadal has marked the mentality of a later generation. Any match he plays on clay acts as a manual for dedication, with a level of concentration comparable to the care of a craftsman. That image was etched in the retina of Ruud, one of the main contenders for any clay event at the moment. The world No. 6, who has trained his skills in the Mallorcan’s academy, places in the center of the target the role that Rafa has had in his maturity.

“I still remember the first time I saw him play. I was about 6 years old, it was the first time Roland Garros won,” Casper revealed from the Caja Mágica. “I remember they are watching him on television with my father in our house in Norway. I loved tennis before watching that match, but maybe it made me want to become a professional or at least get to appear on television playing tennis. That’s what I remember him telling myself. This looks like fun and I want to go out playing on TV when I’m older.”

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The passage of time has placed the cameras on the shoulders of the Scandinavian, present in the last two Roland Garros finals, a tournament in which he competed for the cup against Nadal in the 2022 season. After lifting his biggest trophy at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, opening the door to a new dimension in his career, Ruud could not ignore the importance of the Spanish in his path.

“In a way, Rafa planted a seed in my mind. Obviously, clay is my favorite surface, in a way because it is the one that best suits my game. But Rafa has played an influence on this as well. I have never tried copy him because it would be very difficult to play like him. But my forehand also has a strong topspin, something similar to what he achieves. His numbers on clay are simply crazy and I think that some of his records will never be broken. influence on me and many other players on clay.”

Although the Mutua Madrid Open is witnessing the farewell of a legend, his example will continue to be very present within the walls of the locker room.


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