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Rafael Nadal Biography
Born in Spain on 3rd June, 1986, Rafael Nadal is a Spanish professional tennis player who has been ranked among the world’s Top 5 since 2003. Nadal is only the second male player to achieve the Career Golden Slam and the first to win seven French Open titles. He won the Roland Garros for four consecutive years, from 2005 to 2008, and went on to win Wimbledon 2008 against tennis star Roger Federer. In 2009, Nadal won the Australian Open, and came back to win his second Wimbledon in 2010, as well as his first U.S. Open and fifth French Open title.
The following year, a No. 1-ranked Nadal lost his top ranking as well as Wimbledon 2011 to Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic. Also in 2011, he won his sixth French Open, followed by a seventh French Open victory in 2012. In the 2012 Wimbledon semifinals, a No. 3-ranked Nadal lost to Czech player Lukas Rosol—a match that some commentators labeled one the biggest upsets in tennis history. In June 2013, Nadal won his eighth French Open title against David Ferrer.
Rafael Nadal was born in Majorca, Spain, on June 3, 1986. When he was 3 years old, his uncle, Toni Nadal, a former professional tennis player, started working with him, seeing an aptitude for the sport in young Rafael.
At the age of 8, Nadal won an under-12 regional tennis championship, giving Toni Nadal the incentive to step up his training. Toni noticed at the time that Rafael played his forehand shots with two hands, so he encouraged him to play left-handed, thinking it could give Rafael an edge on the court.
At the age of 16, in his first ITF junior event, Nadal made it to the semifinals of the Boys’ Singles tournament at Wimbledon. By age 17, he became the youngest man to reach the third round at Wimbledon since Boris Becker.
At the age of 19, in 2005, Nadal won the French Open the first time he played it, and his world ranking went to No. 3. Nadal won 11 singles titles that year, eight of which were on clay, and he was soon dubbed the “King of Clay.”
Hitting His Stride
Nadal went on to win the next three French Opens. In 2006, after winning the French Open— despite both shoulder and foot injuries—he won four other titles. The following year, he won again at Roland Garros and took home five other titles. Nadal poured it on in 2008, winning the French Open again, in addition to winning Wimbledon—where he beat longtime rival Roger Federer in the longest final in Wimbledon history—gold at the Beijing Olympics, and five other titles. After Wimbledon, Nadal’s winning streak stood at a career-best 32 matches.
Since 2008, despite being occasionally hampered by injuries, Nadal has been one of the superstars of the tennis world, winning 15 titles and hitting No. 1 in the world-ranking twice ( in August 2008 and again in June 2010 ). He won the Australian Open in 2009 and came back to win his second Wimbledon in 2010, as well as his first U.S. Open and fifth French Open title.
The following year, a No. 1-ranked Nadal lost his top ranking as well as Wimbledon 2011 to Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic. In June 2012, however, Nadal defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic to win his record seventh French Open title—a feat never accomplished before in men’s tennis. That same month, a No. 3-ranked Nadal lost to Czech player Lukas Rosol in the Wimbledon semfinals—Rosol’s fifth Grand Slam win, and a match that some commentators labeled one the biggest upsets in tennis history.
In June 2013, Nadal won his eighth French Open title against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3—marking his eight French Open victory in nine attempts. “I never like to compare years, but it’s true that this year means something very special for me,” Nadal said after the match, in an interview with ESPN. “Five months ago nobody of my team dreamed about one comeback like this because we thought that [was] going to be impossible. But here we are today, and that’s really fantastic and incredible.”
Later that same month, Nadal lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Belgian player Steve Darcis. A shock to tennis fans who expected a strong performance from the Spanish player, Nadal lost the match in three sets, by 7-6( 4 ), 7-6( 8 ), 6-4.
Nadal is only the second male player in tennis history to complete the Career Golden Slam—winning the French, Australian and U.S. Opens; Wimbledon; and the Olympic Gold medal. Additionally, by 2011, he had taken the Spanish Davis Cup team to victory four times ( 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011 ).
In 2013, the future of Nadal’s career became the subject of much speculation. He won the French Open that year, but he made a poor showing at Wimbledon. At Wimbledon, Nadal was eliminated in the first round of competition. He seemed to be back on the upswing, however, at the U.S. Open. He defeated Novak Djokovic to win the men’s singles title.
Nadal generally plays an aggressive, behind-the-baseline game founded on heavy topspin groundstrokes, consistency, speedy footwork and tenacious court coverage, thus making him an aggressive counterpuncher. Known for his athleticism and speed around the court, Nadal is an excellent defender who hits well on the run, constructing winning plays from seemingly defensive positions. He also plays very fine dropshots, which work especially well because his heavy topspin often forces opponents to the back of the court.
Nadal employs a full western grip forehand, often with a “lasso-whip” follow through, where his left arm hits through the ball and finishes above his left shoulder – as opposed to a more traditional finish across the body or around his opposite shoulder. Nadal’s forehand groundstroke form allows him to hit shots with heavy topspin – more so than many of his contemporaries.
San Francisco tennis researcher John Yandell used a high-speed video camera and special software to count the average number of revolutions of a tennis ball hit full force by Nadal. While Nadal’s shots tend to land short of the baseline, the characteristically high bounces his forehands achieve tend to mitigate the advantage an opponent would normally gain from capitalizing on a short ball. Although his forehand is based on heavy topspin, he can hit the ball deep and flat with a more orthodox follow through for clean winners.
Nadal’s serve was initially considered a weak point in his game, although his improvements in both first-serve points won and break points saved since 2005 have allowed him to consistently compete for and win major titles on faster surfaces. Nadal relies on the consistency of his serve to gain a strategic advantage in points, rather than going for service winners. However, before the 2010 US Open, he altered his service motion, arriving in the trophy pose earlier and pulling the racket lower during the trophy pose. Before the 2010 U.S. Open, Nadal modified his service grip to a more continental one. These two changes in his serve increased his average speed by around 10 mph during the 2010 US Open, maxing out at 135 mph ( 217 km ), allowing him to win more free points on his serve. However, since the 2010 US Open, Nadal’s serve speed has dropped back down to previous levels and has again been cited as a need for improvement.
Nadal is a clay court specialist in the sense that he has been extremely successful on that surface. Since 2005, he won eight times at Roland Garros, eight times at Monte Carlo and six at Rome. However, Nadal has shed that label due to his success on other surfaces, including holding simultaneous Grand Slam tournament titles on grass, hard courts, and clay on two separate occasions, winning eight Masters series titles on hardcourt, and winning the Olympic gold medal on hardcourt.
Despite praise for Nadal’s talent and skill, some have questioned his longevity in the sport, citing his build and playing style as conducive to injury. Nadal himself has admitted to the physical toll hard courts place on ATP Tour players, calling for a reevaluated tour schedule featuring fewer hard court tournaments.