DOB: 3rd June 1986
Turned pro: 2001
Highest rank: 1
Current rank: 2 (Updated July 2011)
Plays: Left handed, two handed backhand
Career Prize Money: $37, 684, 949 (Updated February 2011)
Born in Manacor on the Balearic Island of Mallorca in Spain. His uncle, and long time coach, Toni Nadal is a former professional Spanish tennis player. His other uncle Miguel Angel Nadal is a former national football/soccer player, previously playing for FC Barcelona and RCD Mallorca. He now is a stake holder in the Mallorcan club.
Toni Nadal has commented that when playing with toddler Rafa his balance seemed exceptional from a young age on both his right side and non-dominant left side but that he seemed to be able to generate more power from his left side. It was this observation, and the fact that there are few left handed players on tour, that led to Toni encouraging a young Rafa to play left handed.
Initially when Rafa played tennis as a junior he lacked sufficient strength and played both forehands and backhands with two hands. He is now one of the most powerful athletes on the men’s ATP tour and arguably one of the greatest endurance athletes ever.
Over the years Nadal has set up a firm rivalry with Roger Federer with Rafa leading their head to head 13-7. Nadal started creating problems from Federer back in the 2004 Miami Masters Tournament in straight sets. That year the future ‘King Of Clay’ missed playing Roland Garros due to a stress fracture in his left foot. He would win the next four straight Roland Garros titles, not losing a match there until his fourth round defeat in 2009 to Robin Soderling.
Nadal has had repeated problems with tendinitis in his knees, particularly the right knee, stemming from his aggressive style of play. The tendinitis caused Nadal to miss a substantial portion of the 2009 season, including the chance to defend his title at Wimbledon. His 2009 season was also rocked by his parents divorce which, combined with the effects of his injuries, severely affected his confidence and results in the later part of 2009.
Nadal won Grand Slams on all three surfaces before rival Federer and did so at a younger age. Nadal has won six Grand Slams to date including 4 titles at Roland Garros, 1 Australian Open and 1 Wimbledon title. He needs a US Open Slam to complete a career Grand Slam. Five of his six Grand Slam titles were the result of defeating Roger Federer in the final. His has twice been a runner up at Wimbledon, both times losing to Roger Federer.
During 2010 Nadal made a clean sweep of the clay courts winning Monte Carlo for a record 6th time along with Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros. He followed it up by capturing Wimbledon and the US Open completing his career Grand Slam.
After Rafa won the US Open talk began swirling of the ‘Rafa Slam’ – winning all four Slams in a 12 month, non calender period if he could claim the 2011 Australian Open. It was not to be. Nadal limped through a quarterfinal appearance against David Ferrer having torn his adductors.
Nadal battled fevers between January and May looking well below form for much of the clay court season. Despite his apparent health and fatigue issues Nadal fought his way to the finals of Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome where, on all four occasions, he was outplayed by Novak Djokovic consistently.
Nadal may have won Monte Carlo but having his dominance on clay tested seriously challenged his confidence as he continued to fight his poor (poor by his standards) form leading into Roland Garros.
Despite many issues Rafa won his sixth Roland Garros title, equaling Bjorn Borg. At Wimbledon Nadal seemed to really find some form but suffered multiple body niggles including a heel injury that required an MRI to check for a broken bone. Playing with a numbed foot Nadal powered his way to the finals, finally finding some good form.
Again he was spanked, particularly in the first two sets, by Novak, the full effects of the mental battle between the two being evident on the court. Rafa went down in four sets as he tried to again equal Borg by winning the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double.
Nadal also started his 2011 season by stripping off for an Amarni jeans and underwear campaign, taking over from Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.
Some of Nadal’s records include:
- Only winner of French Open 6 times in 7 years
- Only player to complete Monte Carlo – French Open ‘Clay Slam’ 2010
- One of two players to complete Career Golden Slam (Andre Agassi)
- One of four players to complete Career Grand Slam (Federer, Agassi, Laver)
- One of two players to win three consecutive Slams in a calender year (Laver)
- Most French Open consecutive wins (31) 2005-2009
- Most Masters Series titles (18)
- Only Olympic Gold while holding Slam on all three surfaces (French 2008- Australian 2009)
- Two French-Wimbledon back to back Slams (tied with Bjorn Borg)
- Two French Open titles without losing a set (tied with Bjorn Borg)
- Most consecutive clay court wins (81)
- Only player to win Roland Garros, Queens and Wimbledon consecutively 2008.
- Only player to win 400 matches in less than 500 total matches (401-91)