APRIL 22 - MAY 5, 2024

Two decades of magic and records

The destinies of Rafa Nadal and the Mutua Madrid Open are inextricably linked. The 22-time Grand Slam champion is making his twentieth appearance at this year’s event in the Spanish capital, all of them consecutively, having only missed the inaugural competition in 2002.

The feat makes the Mallorcan left-hander the sole holder of the record for appearances at the Madrid tournament, increasing his lead for participations in a single Masters 1000 event over the eighteen of Roger Federer and Feliciano López (Indian Wells and Miami), as well as Fernando Verdasco (Miami and Madrid).

This two decade run has provided Nadal with a stage on which to set record after record, from the beginnings of Spain’s biggest ATP event in the Madrid Arena to the Mutua Madrid Open’s current home in the Caja Mágica. The Spaniard dominates the roll of honour with the biggest title haul and the greatest number of finals played, as well as having notched up the most wins and played more matches than anyone else at the event.

The Balearic Islander’s love affair with the Mutua Madrid Open began in 2005, two years after his debut, with the first of his five crowns. Then, still on indoor hard court, Nadal stunned the fans in Casa de Campo with another of his epic comebacks against the Croatian Ivan Ljubicic after a final-set tiebreak (3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6[3]).

The remainder of the Mallorcan’s triumphs were forged on the clay of the Manolo Santana Stadium (2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017), eclipsing the returns of his closest pursuers in Roger Federer (2006, 2009 and 2012), Novak Djokovic (2011, 2016 and 2019) and Petra Kvitova (2011, 2015 and 2018). 

Nadal can boast of being one of only three players to have mounted a successful title defence in the Caja Mágica, the other two being Serena Williams and Simon Halep. The American claimed her brace in 2012 and 2013, while the Romanian replicated the feat in 2016 and 2017. The Spaniard came close to making it three on the trot when he reached the final in 2015.

Nadal has played in the decider at the Mutua Madrid Open on as many as eight occasions. Besides his five victorious years, he had three other opportunities to add to his haul in the Spanish capital (2009, 2011 and 2015). This is double the number reached by the above-mentioned Federer and Halep. The Swiss fell at the final hurdle in 2010, while the player from Constanta did likewise in 2014 and 2019.

Nobody has played more matches in Madrid than the Spaniard. The five-time champion arrives at this year’s tournament with 70 ties under his belt, from his debut against Álex Corretja in 2003 to the quarter-final against Carlos Alcaraz twelve months ago. This record has been made possible by Nadal’s consistency at the season’s fourth Masters 1000, having reached at least the antepenultimate round on his last nine appearances and sixteen times in a total of nineteen attempts.

These seventy battles have resulted in 56 wins and 14 defeats. His most frequent opponents have been, with three clashes apiece, Tomas Berdych (2006, 2014 and 2015), Andy Murray (2007, 2015 and 2016), Federer (2009, 2010 and 2011), and Djokovic (2009, 2011 and 2017). His head to head with the Czech, Swiss and Serb are all positive (2-1), the Briton being the only one capable of defeating him more than once (1-2).

A home player has competed in eight of the thirteen finals played in the Manolo Santana Stadium. Five of those times, the trophy stayed at home, in the hands of Nadal in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017, and Alcaraz last season.

The 2009 edition saw Federer take the spoils from Nadal (6-4, 6-4). The top two seeds delivered on expectations during a week from which Djokovic’s four-hour semi-final clash with the Spaniard will live on long in the memory of the Madrid fans.

One year later, the Mallorcan took his revenge on the Swiss (6-4, 7-6[5]). The 2010 tournament was unique in that it was the first time there had been three Spaniards in the semis. Nadal came back to defeat Nicolás Almagro, while Federer also needed three sets to see off David Ferrer. 

The star of the show in 2011 was Djokovic. The Serb claimed the first of his three Madrid titles against a Nadal who was in his third straight final (7-5, 6-4). A determined Djokovic made a giant stride in his assault on the pinnacle of the world rankings with an astonishing performance in the Caja Mágica.

Fans would have to wait two years to see another home player in the final. Nadal defeated Swiss player Stan Wawrinka (6-2, 6-4) to add a third MMOPEN to his trophy cabinet. En route to the title, he crossed paths with two compatriots, David Ferrer in the quarters, and Pablo Andújar in the semis.

The defending champion reclaimed his crown in 2014. Nadal reached the final without conceding a single set. There, in Kei Nishikori, he found a stubborn opponent. The Japanese player had the Spaniard in a corner, taking the first set (6-2). However, the Spaniard bounced back before his opponent suffered the misfortune of having to withdraw through injury (6-4, 3-0). 

In 2015, Andy Murray crushed Nadal’s dream of a third straight title (6-3, 6-2). The Briton claimed his second, having won the trophy in 2008, back in Casa de Campo. The win made him the third player to pick up titles on both tournament surfaces, alongside Federer and the Spaniard.

Nadal completed his full house in the Spanish capital in 2017. His win over Dominic Thiem in the final (6-4, 6-1) to claim his fifth Madrid crown proved to be the prelude to his tenth French Open title. Clashes between the Spaniard and Austrian on clay became a frequent occurrence, with repetitions in Barcelona, Rome and Paris.

At the age of 19 years and 3 days, Carlos Alcaraz became the tournament’s youngest champion. The man from Murcia beat Alexander Zverev in the final (6-3, 6-1), having already left Nadal and Djokovic in his wake. In his breakthrough year, Madrid provided the foundations for his ascent to the peak of the world rankings.