Nadal is the undisputed King of Clay. In tennis, where the GOAT arguments are never-ending, everyone agrees that Rafa is the best clay court player ever. We don’t need statistics to arrive at that conclusion.
But not all clay-court tournaments are the same. The clay itself is different between tournaments. Then there is the weather, elevation, and a host of other factors that make every clay court tournament different.
Let’s take a look at what’s different between the three claycourt Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Rome. These tournaments are held in April and May in the run-up to the French Open.
In the tennis calendar, Monte Carlo is the earliest. The weather is colder in mid-April, so the courts are slower. Monte Carlo has the slowest courts among the three clay court Masters. Nadal likes the slower surface and he won Monte Carlo eight consecutive times between 2005 and 2012.
Roger Federer has won Madrid six times. Madrid sits at a high altitude, around 2100 ft above mean sea level. The high altitude causes the balls to bounce higher and faster, which suits Federer’s game well. Federer likes short points and his big serve is very effective in those conditions. Madrid has the fastest court conditions among the three tournaments.
Rome is played in May, closer to the French Open. The weather is warm at that time of the year which means faster conditions. Rome also has less space behind the baseline. As we all know, Rafa prefers to play far behind the baseline. Rome works well for players who prefer to play closer to the baseline. The clay in Rome is considered closest to the clay used at the French Open.