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10 Things That Happened While Rafael Nadal Was Winning 52 Straight Clay-Court Semifinals


After last night's loss to Fabio Fognini in Rio, Rafael Nadal's utterly remarkable clay-court semifinal winning streak has finally come to an end. The streak, which reached 52 matches and covered 11 and a half years, included 20 straight semifinal victories against top ten competition on clay (and 12 straight against the top five) and was a constant reminder of Rafa's domination of the surface. Naturally, we look to Rafa's nine Roland Garros titles when we want to truly embrace the Spaniard's clay domination, or his gaudy career winning percentage on the surface, which now stands at .928 (321-25), or his even gaudier record in clay-court finals (45-7).

Rio: Fognini Stuns Nadal with Match Point Winner

There's a plethora of stats one can pull whilst trying to demonstrate who the real and everlasting king of clay is, was and always will be, but this semifinal streak was so long-lasting and so steady that it almost seemed as if it would never be broken.

Rafa lost his first ever semifinal on clay as a 17-year-old in Umag in 2003 to Carlos Moya, and since then and until last night, he had never lost another. 15 times the Spaniard had to go to a deciding set, including last year in Rio when he saved match points to slide by Pablo Andujar in Rio. He also played the 2009 epic at the magic box in Madrid, where he edged Novak Djokovic, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(9), in one of the most memorable clay-court matches of the last ten years. And, perhaps the most memorable clay court match of all time: His 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7 victory over Djokovic in the 2013 Roland Garros semis.

More: Nadal's Shorts Aren't Quite Right in Rio

If you have been reading along and haven't let out a little (or large and guttural) groan of appreciation or amazement, maybe you ought to keep reading, and while doing so, contemplate just how ridiculous and historical of a feat Nadal's clay-court semifinal dominance had become.

Is it as amazing as Roger Federer's Grand Slam semifinal streak, which reached 23? Maybe not, but as far as clay court records go, Rafa's dominance at the penultimate level of clay events was quite a monumental achievement.

To put it in perspective, let's take a look at some events that occurred, both in tennis and out, during the time between Rafael Nadal's last two semifinal losses on clay.

1. Roger Federer and his wife Mirka had twins. Then Federer joined and embraced Twitter. Then they had more twins.

2. Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005) and Twitter (2006) were founded.

3. An American male won a Grand Slam and held the No. 1 ranking. Seriously, just ask Andy Roddick and he'll tell you about it.

4. Kim Clijsters retired, had a baby, came back, won three more Grand Slams, then retired and had another baby. Li Na won two Grand Slams, retired, and is going to have a baby.

5. Google invented the driverless car. But it still hasn't figured out an effective way to deal with Nadal's topspin on clay.

6. Rafa turned 18. Rafa switched out of the pirate pants and the sleeveless tops. Rafa turned 21. Rafa won the career Grand Slam. Rafa did a video with Shakira. Rafa put his pants on backwards during a match. Rafa won anyway.




7. The first orbit of the planet Saturn (2004) and the planet Mercury (2011) were made.

8. Justin Bieber turned 10. Then he turned 20. And he wasn't so cute anymore. But Rafa was still cute.

9. A medium-size, tree-dwelling primate called a highland mangabey was discovered in the mountains of East Africa (2007).

10. Indoor clouds were invented. Seriously. But nobody figured out a way to make Nadal allergic to clay.


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