Rafael Nadal is currently the second-best tennis player in the world. Rafa has won 19 Grand Slam titles in the singles so far, which makes him the second-best player on the record list. Only Roger Federer with a total of 20 Grand Slam titles could beat him. Nadal won the French Open, a Grand Slam tournament, twelve times in singles. No one else ever managed to do the same. He has finished five seasons (2008, 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019) as world number one.
What makes Nadal so unique is his way of playing. Although he is right-handed, he hits the forehand with his left hand. Rafa plays the backhand on both sides. From the baseline, he acts with pressure, plays extreme topspin and sends the opponent from one corner to the other. His playing is powerful and athletic, he so fast that most times he manages to reach balls that were often thought to be lost.
But how did Rafael Nadal get so far and where did his tennis career start?
Rafa was born in Mallorca on the 3rd of June 1986. He held a tennis racket in his hand for the first time when he was four years old. His uncle Toni Nadal saw talent in Rafa and started training him. He trained Rafa for most of his career. Toni was described as a tough coach for whom not the best equipment decides about success but the way of playing. Based on that he trained Rafa on old courts with old balls from time to time.
Rafael wins his first tournament at the age of eight. With 15 years he plays a match on the ATP Tour for the first time, and a bit later he made it to the Wimbledon Junior Semifinals.
Nadal managed to make it into the top 100 in the world rankings in 2003. Despite his success and the press focused on him, Nadal remains a shy young tennis player who initially only speaks Spanish at press conferences and has an interpreter translate. He started to have a trademark, his long hair tied back with a headband.
In 2004, at the ATP tournament in Auckland, Nadal reached a final for the first time. Only a few weeks later, Nadal beats world number one Roger Federer for the first time; just the beginning of countless duels that would follow.
It was in 2004 when Nadal had to experience his first setback due to an injury. Because of a fatigue fracture in his midfoot, he could not play at the French Open. But he returned the same year and managed to finish as number 51 in the world rankings.
In 2005 Nadal had his first Grand Slam win in Paris. That year he also won the tournaments of Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. By the end of the 2005 season, he takes the second world rank.
Nadal was able to defend his title in Paris in 2006. At the finals in Wimbledon, he lost to Roger Federer. Rafa is considered the most complete clay-court player in history who wins 81 games in a row on red ash before Federer can beat him in the Hamburg 2007 final. In the 2007 Wimbledon final Federer has the upper hand again. These two tennis stars have been dominating the tennis world together and fighting thrilling duels for years.
In 2008 Rafa wins Wimbledon for the first time against Federer. That year he wins the fourth French Open title, is in the semi-finals at the Australian Open and the US Open. He has another success with the Davis Cup team and earns an Olympic victory in Beijing. In 2008 Rafa is world number one for the first time.
The new year started for Nadal with a win at the Australian Open, but then he suffers a setback because of knee problems, and he had to take a break. He returned in August but was not in top form.
In 2010 at the Australian Open Nadal had to give up in the quarter-finals because of knee problems. He returned to the court a few weeks later in his old form. Rafa wins 62 out of 70 games after his injury break and recaptures the number one position in the world ranking.
Since mid-2011 the duel is no longer Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer, but Rafael Nadal against Novak Djokovic. In Wimbledon, at the US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open, both have reached the finals of a Grand Slam tournament four times in a row, with Djokovic winning the first three times. The duel at the Australian Open is the longest final in Grand Slam history with 5:53 hours and ended with a win for Djokovic. At the following French Open, he defeats Novak in return.
In Wimbledon 2012 Nadal’s knee problems return, and he had to take a break for over five months.
After his comeback in 2013, he wins most of the matches, including the French Open and the US Open.
In 2014 Nadal suffered from more health problems and took a break until the following year. But he seems not to be the usual self and defeats follow. He finishes on world rank number five. In 2016 it was only at the Olympic Games that Nadal can again draw attention to himself with positive news. Together with Marc Lopez, he won the gold medal in Rio. That year he had to face doping accusations by the French Minister of Sport, which Nadal denies. Following repeated health issues he had to finish the 2016 season early again. Many thought that following his defeats, health problems and the negative press Nadal might say goodbye to tennis.
But Rafa came back on the court, and he played some top tennis in 2017. He won the tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid, Monte-Carlo and he won the French Open for the 10th time. Never before has a player won a Grand Slam tournament so often.
In 2018 Rafa had to deal with some health problems again. He voluntarily skipped any preparation tournaments to keep his strength for the majors. After some difficulties at the beginning of the year, he won 19 games in a row on clay, earned his 17th Grand Slam title overall and won the French Open finale for the 11th time. He had to finish the season earlier because of reoccurring health problems.
In 2019 he reached the finale at the Australian Open for the fifth time but lost against Djokovic. Rafa added a French Open title to his career for the 12th time. But then again he experienced a hand injury and missed out on some tournaments before returning to the ATP Tour in Paris. Even though he reached only the semi-finals, he earned some essential points which helped him to enter world ranking number one again.
Rafael Nadal has a stable private life that he keeps away from the public as much as possible. Since 2005 he has been dating his girlfriend Maria, and they got married in 2019.