Nadal notches 900th match win

The world No.1 fended off a late challenge from fellow southpaw Marterer to book a 12th Roland-Garros quarter-final berth.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2018, Simple Messieurs, 1/8 de Finale©Corinne Dubreuil / FF
 - Dan Imhoff

Forget the fact his vanquished opponent may not have gone within a whisker of taking a set.

Rafael Nadal is so used to politely talking up his opponents on clay and modestly downplaying extending his own records in Paris, it can all feel a bit Groundhog Day for the 10-time champion sitting through another round of post-match press conferences.

On Monday, 22-year-old debutant Maximilian Marterer was the latest to come up short, although the German lefty did at least force Nadal to scramble, angle and weather his way through a third-set tie-break for a 6-3 6-2 7-6(4) fourth-round result, his 37th straight completed set at Roland-Garros.

“I don't remember, sorry, but yes,” Nadal grinned when told he’d practised with Marterer on Chatrier prior to the Spaniard’s epic semi-final win over Novak Djokovic five years ago. “I like to follow the young players. But I cannot remember about all the practices that I had, and with all the players that I played in the practice. But it’s is good to see him playing that well.”

Monday marked Nadal’s 900th tour-level match win and a handful of moments stood out over the years.

First Grand Slam title, perhaps? First tour level win?

“It’s difficult to say, but I could name a few. Obviously Davis Cup 2004 was important to me,” Nadal said. “Then Rome against [Guillermo] Coria, it was a special moment. And then maybe Wimbledon 2008, Australia 2009, French Open 2010, as well, and US Open 2010.”

Beyond being bogged down in the interminable questions on his prospective opponent or latest clay-court winning streak – be it sets, matches or titles – Nadal has been presented with the occasional welcome segue this past week.

After his routine third-round victory over Richard Gasquet on Saturday – his 16th from as many meetings with the Frenchman – there was only so much that could be said for the match. So onto Juan Martin del Potro’s post-tournament yoga recovery routines.

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros, 8è de finale© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I'm sorry, but no,” Nadal offered deadpan when queried on whether the downward dog or lotus pose were part of his routine.

“I believe that everyone should do what serves them best. Because every time you talk about new things, at one point people said they were winning because they were eating gluten-free diets.

“You know, every time something new appears and someone wins, it seems to be ‘the’ thing. But the reality is the ones who win are the best, and they win because they are better.

“Now, yoga can be very good for someone. I'm sure it can. For del Potro, it may be yoga that helps him relax and feel better physically. Well, then let him do yoga. For me, sincerely, when I have free time, I do other things – I play golf, I swim.”

On the back of his continued dominance of Frenchman in the slams, who better to ask than Nadal himself on the lack of Les Bleus featured at the business end of the tournament.

“That’s the sport, you know,” he said. “It is very difficult to create big champions, because you need to be born a little bit with that. What really [shows] that you are working very well – the French Federation is working very well – is that there are plenty of French players in good positions in the rankings.”

After his second-round routing of Argentine Guido Pella, Nadal touched on a subject very dear to his heart but so rarely broached for its parochial divisiveness back home – his beloved football team, Real Madrid. It came after coach Zinedine Zidane’s decision to quit less than a week after guiding the club to a third straight Champions League title.

“Of course it was a surprise for everybody, no?” Nadal said. “He always has been positive and believing in the players and in the club. He deserves to choose what's better for him… and thanks for the right examples that he gave to the rest of the people.”

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros, 8è de finale© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

After returning to complete a two-day first-round victory over Simone Bolelli on Monday, naturally Nadal’s press conference was loaded with talk of his invincibility on the red dirt and what it took to find a way past his red-lining opponent. Rounding out the press conference, however, Nadal was pressed on a bit of housekeeping: what did he think of the renovations around Roland-Garros?

“I think that this is a necessary change, because in all Grand Slam tournaments, there are indoor courts,” Nadal said. “So Roland Garros, I congratulate for this initiative. It will make the tournament even more spectacular, and this indoor court is going to be very beautiful.”

Argentine 11th seed Diego Schwartzman is next. Should Nadal extend his Roland-Garros straight-sets winning streak in that one he will stand to pass Bjorn Borg’s record of 41 straight sets in the semi-finals.

Queue the subsequent Borg reflections to come. And with a bit of luck more along the lines of sun salutations, soccer ruminations and French renovations.