Rafael Nadal


Rafael Nadal

Born in 1986 to parents, Ana Maria and Sebastian, Rafael Nadal is a Spanish professional tennis player. Currently at 29 years of age, Nadal is a veteran on the tour and is a former world number one.

His dominance at Roland Garros over the past decade has given him the name The King of Clay, and when the Spanish bull calls an end to his career, he will go down in history as one of the best players to play the game.

Nadal has also had success on other surfaces besides clay, consistently challenging for grand slam titles when injuries haven’t hurt his chances. Rafael Nadal has won 14 Major titles and 27 ATP Masters titles in total in his hugely successful career, and the tenacious Spaniard isn’t done winning titles just yet.

Anyone that has watched Nadal would know he is a man of many quirks and rituals, like for example the wedgie picking before serving, and the positioning of his water bottles. An outsider may be quick to assume these are just odd superstitions, although Rafa insists they just help him to focus on the next point he is playing.

A few years ago, Nadal released his autobiography Rafa, which as you’d expect is all about his tennis career. The book also discusses the many quirks that Nadal fans have grown accustomed to over the years of watching the Spaniard express himself on the tennis court.

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Early playing history

Rafa Nadal has worked with Uncle Toni, a former professional tennis player himself, since the very beginning of his career. He first picked up a tennis racquet when he was just three years of age, and the rest is history for the Spanish ace.

By the time he was 11, he was winning junior tennis tournaments all across Spain. At the age of 12, he had won the Spanish and European junior tennis titles for his age group. Although commentators often talk about Nadal’s physicality, mental toughness and the tenaciousness he has on the court, he clearly has a lot of talent to go with it, which he demonstrated from a very young age.

All of these great qualities, under the guidance of his uncle/coach, are the true reason for the remarkable career that Nadal has had until this point, and will no doubt carry him in future seasons.

Rise to the top

Nadal turned pro when he was 15 years old in 2002, just a year before Novak Djokovic. Both have shared meteoric careers and have had one of the greatest tennis rivalries in the Open Era.

At his debut Wimbledon appearance in 2003, Nadal, who was 17 at the time, became the youngest male player to reach the third round of Wimbledon since 16-year-old Boris Becker of Germany in 1984. By the end of the year, he got his ranking up to be one of the top 50 players in the world.

He continued to climb the rankings and in 2005, Nadal went on to win the French Open as a 19-year-old on his first attempt with a victory over Mariano Puerta. His first Wimbledon title came in 2008 over five-time defending Wimbledon champ, Roger Federer, in five tough sets.

Nadal went on to defend his Roland Garros title in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009, he won his first Australian Open title over Roger Federer, becoming the first Spanish player to do so. At the 2009 French Open, he lost his first French Open match in a fourth round clash against Robin Soderling.

In 2010 he won the French Open and Wimbledon, and his subsequent win at Flushing Meadows, New York City, put him in an elite group of players, because he had completed the career Golden Slam – winning all four majors, as well as Olympic gold at the Beijing Olympics. The only other player to do this is Andre Agassi.

He went on to win the French Open again in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Nadal suffered just his second defeat in 72 matches at the French Open at the hands of Novak Djokovic. It was going to take someone as good as Nole to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. In fact the pair have met at every final at a Grand Slam. No other player has been so dominant at grand slams, and most players and commentators regard him as being the best clay court player of all time.

Even though injuries have plagued Rafa’s career, he has always come back strong, although you have to wonder how much longer he can keep this level of play up for. That said, the Spaniard remains optimistic about his chances looking forward. Losing at the 2009 French Open didn’t kill his motivation or confidence. He continued to do well at Roland Garros, and the clay court king has also had a great deal of success on grass and hard courts.

Professional highlights

Rafael Nadal has so many career highlights it’s difficult to pick just a few. But without question the French Open is where Nadal has made his name. Rafael Nadal had won an unprecedented 9 of the past 10 French Open tournaments coming into the 2015 French Open.

The 2012 Australian Open men’s final was contested between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The six-hour, five-set marathon is considered by many tennis enthusiasts to be one of the greatest matches of all time. It was the match of the tournament and the longest Grand Slam final in the Open Era.

Fun facts about Rafael Nadal you might not know:

● He was not forced to play left handed. He is ambidextrous and playing as a leftie is a huge advantage, so that’s what he did.
● A 14 year old Rafael Nadal beat former Wimbledon champ Pat Cash in an exhibition match.
● Rafael Nadal’s birthday always falls during the French Open, which seems appropriate considering he is the King of Clay.
● He has quietly been dating girlfriend Xisca Perello for more than 7 years.
● Nadal likes football and supports Real Madrid and RCD Mallorca.

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