Rafael Nadal has made an astonishing statement that he was not trained to be a clay specialist but had instead been coached to make his way up on grass. As it would turn out, Nadal became the greatest ever competitor on clay the world has ever seen, winning 10 French Open titles, with the latest coming in 2017.

The Spaniard capped the year with the US Open title, taking his tally of Grand Slams to 16, trailing arch rival Roger Federer by three. He has won two Wimbledon titles, three US Opens and a solitary Australian Open title in his illustrious career thus far, but he was expected to do better on grass and hard courts than on clay, where he eventually came to rule.

Nadal would be looking to win his second Australian Open title when the season resumes in 2018. The Spaniard made it to the final in 2017 but was defeated by Federer in a fierce contest. The Swiss matched Nadal on the court this year, winning two titles, taking his tally up to 19,

Nadal accepts that he has disproportionate success on clay, compared to other courts but that is more down to chance as his Uncle Toni Nadal did not train him to be a clay specialist as a kid. However, despite the success, he always wanted to play well on grass as Spanish players had historically done well on the surface.

"I haven't seen the video but despite the slightly disproportionate success I've had on clay, I wasn't coached for that surface. My uncle Toni, when I was a kid, didn't train me to be a clay specialist, mentally or as a player," Nadal said in an interview with Spanish publication AS.

"And despite what people think, I didn't train that much on clay. But it's true that my style of play and the success I had at the beginning of my career gave me a lot of confidence on the surface.

"I adapted very well to clay but the truth is that because at that time it had been a while since any (male) Spanish players had been successful on grass. For me that was a huge source of motivation and I thought I had the ability to do well because at the end of the day if you have the desire to improve, you have the possibility of doing so.

"Doing so well on clay helped me to become better on grass as well. It's a completely different game, but that confidence helped me. I started to adapt and to enjoy it although lately my knees haven't allowed me to. This year I was in good shape, I enjoy grass and the surface is good for me."

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has been an advocate for clay-court events - but that was not always the case Getty