© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Rafael Nadal will attempt to earn his 11th Roland Garros title against Dominic Thiem, who is the only player to beat him on clay in the past two years.

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Why Beating Rafa In Paris Is Nigh Impossible

ATPWorldTour.com explores the stats that you need to know ahead of Sunday's Roland Garros final

There is plenty that has been impressive about Rafael Nadal's success at Roland Garros — the Spaniard has triumphed 10 times and won 85 of 87 matches, for starters. But the statistics show that the task that first-time Grand Slam finalist Dominic Thiem faces on Sunday is even more daunting than you might think.

Nadal has never lost after the quarter-finals on the Parisian terre battue, holding a 21-0 record in semi-finals and finals en route to his 10 trophies, which is the most captured by any man at a single major.

Most Singles Titles Won At A Single Major (All-Time, Men)

 Player  Grand Slam  Titles  Years
 Rafael Nadal  Roland Garros  10  2005-08, 2010-14, 2017
 Roger Federer  Wimbledon  8  2003-07, 2009, 2012, 2017
 Richard Sears  US Championships  7  1881-87*
 William Renshaw  Wimbledon  7  1881-86, 1889
 William Larned  US Championships  7  1901-02, 1907-11*
 Bill Tilden  US Championships  7  1920-25, 1929
 Pete Sampras  Wimbledon  7  1993-95, 1997-2000
*Challenge round played through 1911 at US Championships
But perhaps it is the left-hander's performance in championship matches that is most striking. The World No. 1 has won 50 per cent of his sets in Roland Garros finals by a margin of 6-3 or greater. And what is most stunning about that is that his opponents’ average ATP Ranking has been 6.1. If you eliminate Mariano Puerta, who was World No. 37 when he lost to Nadal in the 2005 final, that average would drop to 2.7. So not only is he dominating with the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the line, but he is thumping the world's best in the process.

Nadal's Roland Garros Final Sets By Score 

 Score  Number Of Sets
 6-0  1
 6-1  5
 6-2  4
 6-3  8
 6-4  6
 7-5  4
 7-6  2

In those matches, Nadal has won 61.2 per cent (207-131) of games played. And in three of the finals (2008 vs Federer, 2013 vs Ferrer and 2017 vs Wawrinka), all against Top 5 players in the ATP Rankings, the Spaniard did not let slip one set past 6-3. 

Fun Facts: Nadal In Roland Garros Finals

Sets Won/Lost  30-6 (83.3%)
 Games Won/Lost  207-131 (61.2%)
 Average Opponent ATP Ranking  6.1

And the best-of-five-set element adds another hurdle for Thiem. Nadal is 110-2 (98.2%) in clay-court five setters, with his only losses coming in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros in 2009 against Robin Soderling and in the 2015 quarter-finals against Novak Djokovic. And while the World No. 1 has been oustanding in best-of-three matches on the surface, winning 87.5 per cent (364-52) of the time, he has proven to be even greater of a challenge for opponents in the longer format.

Comparing Nadal's Record In Best-of-Three & Best-of-Five Set Matches

 Rafael Nadal In...  Record
 Best-of-Three Sets  635-151 (80.8%)
 Best-of-Three Sets On Clay  364-52 (87.5%)
 Best-of-Five Sets  262-36 (87.9%)
 Best-of-Five Sets On Clay  110-2 (98.2%)

Nadal has greatly contributed to the dominance of the 'Big Five' (Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray & Wawrinka), starting with his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005. Since then, those five players have accounted for 50 of the past 52 Grand Slam titles. During the current stretch, Nadal has won 16 titles, Federer has captured 16, Djokovic has lifted 12 trophies, while Murray and Wawrinka have earned three apiece. The two other players to win a Grand Slam title during the span are Juan Martin del Potro (2009 US Open) and Marin Cilic (2014 US Open).  

All-Time Grand Slam Titles Leaders

 Player  Grand Slam Titles
 1. Roger Federer  20
 2. Rafael Nadal  16
 3. Pete Sampras  14
 T4. Novak Djokovic  12
 T4. Roy Emerson  12

If Thiem is to join that group, he will add his name to elite company in more ways than one. The Austrian can become just the 11th player in the Open Era to defeat the top two seeds at a Grand Slam, with the last being Wawrinka when he won the title two years ago. The Swiss, who also did it at the 2014 Australian Open, is the only player to accomplish the feat in the past 25 years, dating back to 1993 Roland Garros (Sergi Bruguera). Thiem beat Alexander Zverev, the second seed, in the quarter-finals. 

Past Five Players To Beat Top 2 Seeds At A Grand Slam (Open Era)

 Player  Tournament  No. 1 Seed   No. 2 Seed
 Stefan Edberg  1990 Wimbledon  Ivan Lendl (SF)  Boris Becker (F)
 Michael Stich  1991 Wimbledon  Stefan Edberg (SF)  Boris Becker (F)
 Sergi Bruguera  1993 Roland Garros  Pete Sampras (QF)  Jim Courier (F)
 Stan Wawrinka  2014 Australian Open  Rafael Nadal (F)  Novak Djokovic (QF)
 Stan Wawrinka  2015 Roland Garros  Novak Djokovic (F)  Roger Federer (QF)

Thiem is also attempting to make Austrian history, as he can become just the second player — man or woman — from the country to capture a major title. The 24-year-old (18-4) already has the second-most wins at Roland Garros among players from the nation, trailing just 1995 champion Thomas Muster (32-13).

Most Wins By An Austrian Man At Roland Garros (All-Time)

 Player  Record
 1. Thomas Muster  32-13
 2. Dominic Thiem  18-4
 3. Jurgen Melzer  16-13
 4. Herman Von Artens  15-6
 5. Franz-Wilhelm Matejka  9-3

Clay has clearly been Thiem’s best surface, as he has earned 109 of his 206 tour-level victories and eight of his 10 titles on the beaten earth. Thiem also leads the ATP World Tour this season with 26 victories (26-6) on the red dirt, with Nadal right behind (25-1). If the right-hander pulls off the upset Sunday, he will join Ivan Lendl as the only men to claim Grand Slam titles on their 18th major appearances. He can also become the youngest Grand Slam champion since Novak Djokovic (24 years, 252 days) won the 2012 Australian Open.

2018 ATP World Tour Clay-Court Win Leaders

 Player  2018 Clay-Court Record
 1. Dominic Thiem  26-6
 2. Rafael Nadal  25-1
 3. Alexander Zverev  21-4
 4. Diego Schwartzman  17-7
 5. Fabio Fognini  17-9

But, as history dictates, defeating Nadal in a Roland Garros final is one of the most challenging tests in sports.