Rafael Nadal practicing at the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open
Rafael Nadal is universally considered the greatest claycourt player of all time, leading to him being labeled the ‘King of Clay’. The 35-year-old has won an ATP record of 62 titles on the surface, 13 more than Guillermo Vilas in second place.
His claycourt trophy haul includes 13 Roland Garros crowns and 26 ATP Masters 1000 titles (11 in Monte-Carlo, 10 in Rome, four in Madrid and one in Hamburg). The great Spaniard holds an astonishing 465-43 (91.5%) overall career record on his favorite surface.
Here is a look back at the three times the 21-time Major champion has been bageled in a set on clay:
# 2005 Buenos Aires quarterfinals: Gaudio d. Nadal 0-6, 6-0, 6-1
In 2005, Nadal appeared at the ATP 250 (then ATP International) tournament in Buenos Aires for the first time. The then 18-year-old was seeded No. 7 after receiving a wildcard entry.
Following straight-set wins over Argentina’s Agustin Calleri and Italy’s Potito Starace, the Spaniard met No. 2 seed Gaston Gaudio in the quarterfinals. The Argentine was the defending French Open champion and World No. 8 at the time.
The then World No. 48 made a flying start by taking the opening set 6-0, but Gaudio hit back to level the contest by winning the second set with the same scoreline. The home favorite, who was the eventual champion, then continued his surge to ease across the finish line for the loss of just a single game in the third set.
# 2005 Monte-Carlo Masters final: Nadal d. Coria 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5
Guillermo Coria during the 2005 Monte-Carlo Masters final
Following his defeat to Gaudio in Argentina, Nadal won back-to-back claycourt ATP events in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco in February. He was then beaten in an entertaining five-set final at the Miami Masters (hardcourt) in March, before losing to Igor Andreev in the quarterfinals in Valencia (clay) in April.
The Spaniard carried his fine form into the 2005 Monte-Carlo Masters, where he reached the final for the loss of just one set (in his semifinal win over Richard Gasquet). The 18-year-old met World No. 9 and defending Monte-Carlo champion Guillermo Coria in the title match.
The then World No. 17 dropped just four games en route to taking the first two sets, before the sixth-seeded Argentine responded by bageling him in the third. The No. 11 held firm to edge a tight fourth set against the 2004 Roland Garros finalist and claim his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown.
# 2007 Hamburg Masters final: Federer d. Nadal 2-6, 6-2, 6-0
Starting with his opening win in his 2005 Monte-Carlo title run, Nadal won a men’s record of 81 consecutive claycourt matches going into the 2007 Hamburg Masters final. The streak included five victories against his great rival and the then World No. 1 Roger Federer, who he faced in the Hamburg title match.
The No. 2 seed’s imperious run on the surface, and against his Swiss contemporary, looked set to continue when he took the opening set 6-2. The top seed, however, reacted strongly by winning the second set by the same scoreline to level the final.
Federer then stormed through the deciding set 6-0 to secure the title and his first ever triumph on clay against the then 20-year-old.