Rafael Nadal

  • Full name Rafael Nadal Parera
  • Nickname Rafa
  • Also known as Rafa Nadal
  • Birth date May 3, 1986
  • Birth place Manacor, Mallorca
  • Current age 38 years 45 days
  • Height 6 ft 1 in
  • Style Aggressive baseline play combined with speed and athleticism
Rafael Nadal celebrates becoming Wimbledon champion

When Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in straight sets on the pair's first meeting back in 2004, the greatest tennis rivalry since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras had begun. Nadal presented the first real challenge to world No. 1, knocking Federer off the top for the first time in nearly five years in 2008.

Introduced to the tennis court at the tender age of three by his uncle Toni, Nadal was destined for sporting greatness. While Toni, a former professional tennis player himself, remains his coach to this day, another uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, was a professional footballer, played for Barcelona and Spain. Nadal was also a talented footballer, but at the age of twelve his father made him choose between tennis and football in order that his schoolwork didn't suffer.

In 2001, aged 14, Nadal made his professional debut, and by the age of 16 had broken into the world top 50. He made his grand slam debut in 2003 at Wimbledon, becoming the youngest man since Boris Becker in 1984 to make the third round.

At the 2004 Miami Masters Nadal faced world number one Roger Federer for the first time, the first encounter in what was to be one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history, and he beat the world number one in straight sets. An ankle injury kept him out of much of the 2004 clay court season, but a four-set victory over world number two Andy Roddick helped Spain to the Davis Cup victory over the USA.

At the French Open, on his debut at Roland Garros, he beat home favourites Richard Gasquet and Sebastien Grosjean on route to the semi-finals where he beat top seed Roger Federer. Just two days after his 19th birthday, he beat Mariano Puerta in the final to become the first teenager to win a Grand Slam title since Pete Sampras at the 1990 US Open.

He fell in the second round at Wimbledon the following month, but back-to-back titles in Bastad and Stuttgart saw him reach number two for the first time. He ended the year ranked second in the world behind Roger Federer, becoming the first teenager to finish No. 2 since Boris Becker in 1986.

Defeat to Roger Federer in Hamburg ended Nadal's 81-match unbeaten record on clay, but he bounced back to win the French Open for the third consecutive year. In his second consecutive Wimbledon final appearance he took Federer to five sets, but he would have to wait until 2008 to win Wimbledon. In what is widely considered to be the greatest Wimbledon final in history, Nadal defeated Federer in a five-set marathon lasting nearly five hours to end the world No. 1's five-year dominance at the All England Club.

A semi-final appearance in the 2008 Australian Open, followed by titles in Barcelona, Hamburg and Monte Carlo preceded his fourth straight Roland Garros title, equalling Bjorn Borg's four-year reign between 1978 and 1981. He followed this with victory in Toronto, before a semi-final defeat in Cincinnati at the hands of Novak Djokovic, ending his 32-match winning streak. An Olympic gold medal in Beijing cemented an impressive summer and saw him reach number one for the first time, ending Roger Federer's four-and-a-half year tenure.

He reached the US Open semi-finals for the first time, losing to Andy Murray, but a semi-final appearance at Madrid was enough to see him become the first left-hander since John McEnroe to finish the year as No. 1. However, he was forced to withdraw from the Masters Cup and the Davis Cup final with a knee injury.

He returned from injury and progressed through his first five matches at the Australian Open without dropping a set. He came through a five-hour marathon semi-final against compatriot Fernando Verdasco to set up a nineteenth career meeting with Federer in the final, and a five-set victory saw Nadal become the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open.

Further injury problems plagued his season, and after a semi-final defeat to Robin Soderling ended his unbeaten status at the French Open, he was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon with a knee injury. He returned in August, but briefly relinquished his number two spot to Murray, he failed to win another title before the end of the year.

After nearly a year without a title, Nadal ended his drought in spectacular fashion, winning three Masters titles on the trot before regaining his French Open title for the fifth time, replacing Federer as world No. 1 for the second time and claiming a second Wimbledon victory.

Nadal secured his status as one of tennis' greats when he beat Novak Djokovic to win the 2010 US Open - becoming only the seventh man to complete a career Grand Slam, before he equalled Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles two days after his 25th birthday.

Though he successfully defended his French Open title, he lost his No. 1 ranking to Novak Djokovic, who won the remaining two grand slam titles in 2011.

After a successful 2012 clay-court season, picking up titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, Nadal saw off Djokovic to surpass Borg's record of six titles at Roland Garros.

He was beaten by Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon and spent the next seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury. His return to action was low key, but he picked up a string of titles and his journey back to the top was completed when he beat David Ferrer in the final of the French Open to pick up a record eighth slam at Roland Garros.

Career high
Triumphing in an epic five-set Wimbledon final over five-time champion and world No. 1 Roger Federer

Career low
After knocking Roger Federer off the top spot after nearly five years at the top, Nadal's status as world number one was relatively short-lived, with injury blighting his 2009 season. Defeat to Robin Soderling in the semi-final at Roland Garros saw him lose his unbeaten status at the French Open, before he was unable to defend his Wimbledon title through injury.

"I am afraid of a lot of things. A dog. I could be afraid of a dog that's upset, for example. And on the tennis courts, maybe on the outside I look fearless, but on the inside, I'm scared. There's not one player in the world who isn't nervous before matches. Especially important matches."

"Not since the days of Boris Becker have I seen such intimidation on a tennis court. Rafael Nadal is on clay what the German phenomenon was on grass." John McEnroe

Nadal had an asteroid belt named after him by the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca. Discovered in 2003, and previously known as the originally named 128036, the asteroid belt, situated between Mars and Jupiter, was renamed in 2008 following his Wimbledon triumph.


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