Rafael Nadal is one of the hottest young sports stars in tennis. One of the greatest clay court players, he has as many fans as he does critics. Winning the Grand Slam 14 times, an Olympic Gold medal, and numerous ATP titles aside, he is hotly tipped to be the next best thing in the sport, after Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. Many might argue that this accolade would be short-lived because he has a self-exhausting strategy to winning: Nadal is aggressive on the pitch, fast, and always in-focus.
What seems like the winning ingredient is actually slated to be his downfall, but it is only a matter of time when. I would personally hate to see such a young athlete “call it quits” so early on in his career but how much injury can one player sustain before he decides to throw in the towel for this rough-weather sport? Nadal will be back this summer for Roland Garros, having won the trophy an astonishing nine times. Roland Garros is apparently, his favourite haunting ground, but he does so without winning any tournament at all the past sports calendar.
Rafael Nadal has played some of the greatest sports matches in memory – see, if you can agree with us on this too: in 2005, an 18-year old unknown Spanish lad graced the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open and the Italian Open. Just the year after, thanks to his coach (and uncle) Miguel Angel Nadal, a former Barcelona and Spanish international centre-back, made such a shocking leap of performance in the semi-finals, that it stunned the reigning king of tennis, at the time, Roger Federer. He won that tournament eventually, heralding the arrival of a new sports star kid in town.
Nadal won against Federer again, the same year at the French Open finals. Federer, at the time, was busy making a clean sweep for trophies in one tournament after another, and although the match was off to a brilliant start for all Federer fans, it didn’t take long for Nadal to strike back and win his second French Open title. This rivalry with Federer, however, didn’t go far enough, despite the wins in his favour: he won the French Open in 2008 again, not losing a single set across the seven matches, and the 2011 French Open match, that was so tentative and filled with mixed-sets for both the players, it was enough to keep the whole audience on tenterhooks.
Some of Nadal’s greatest rivalries and wins have been against Novak Djokovic, another fellow rising star in tennis. Winning against a well-liked candidate was tough enough for Nadal to deal with, but to actually slide as if almost lucky, must have hit him so hard. One of their more memorable matches was the finals at Roland Garros last year: Djokovic had previously beaten Nadal four times straight in a row, and Nadal had all odds stacked against him. However, Djokovic lost control under pressure and lost two sets at a time when he was already falling behind – this gave Nadal, a win for the 9th time. But how much of that would you call lucky and how much of it would you label as pure swerving skill?