Rafael “Rafa” Nadal is a Spanish tennis player who is called the “King of Clay” for all his success on the clay court but is also universally considered as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He was born in Manacor, Mallorca, Spain on June 3, 1986 and began playing tennis at the age of 3 years old. As of early 2013, Nadal is ranked No. 5 in the world after missing the last 8 months due to a knee injury.
Nadal’s was born to Sebastian Nadal and Ana Maria Parera who were not professional athletes. Nadal, however, had plenty of other sources of inspiration as he gravitated to tennis by way of his uncle Toni Nadal who was a professional tennis player, and Miguel Angel Nadal who was a retired footballer. Early on, Rafa played both sports on a regular basis but when this started to affect his studies, his father made him choose one and stop the other. Thus, he decision to become a tennis player was made not unlike the dramatics in many movie reviews.
As a professional tennis player, Rafa is known for some qualities that few other players can match on the court. He plays left handed even if he naturally a righty in order to gain a natural advantage over players not used to playing against lefties. This was essentially his eczema cream, a strategic solution to overcome the dominance of the righties. Nadal is also a relentless defender, choosing to run after every ball and playing that extra shot that forces his opponents to commit a mistake. The topspin he imparts with his shots is unrivaled in the game. Combined, these attributes allow Nadal to dominate games so much so that his opponents may need an accident lawyer after every game for all the punishment that they take on the court.
At age 26, Rafa is already one of the most storied players in the game enduring through various injuries like knee issues, back pain, wrist problems, an abdominal tear, and many others. He has won 51 career titles in total, none more impressive than his 11 Grand Slam titles, seven of which he won at the hallowed grounds of Philippe Chatrier Court which is home to the French Open. He also won twice in Wimbledon, once in Australia and once in the US Open to complete the tennis career grand slam.
Also included in his title hauls are the 21 ATP Masters 1000 titles that he has won, tied with Roger Federer for the most in the Open era. He also won the gold medal in Olympic tennis at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In addition, he has also captained the Spanish Davis Cup team to 4 championships, perhaps his “coconut oil for face” equivalent which is what will set him apart from other players who only focus on their professional tennis career without giving time to their national tennis duties. Overall, Nadal has over $50 million in career earnings and has held the N. 1 ranking for an extended period.
If injuries do not cut his career short, Rafa has plenty more to offer in his next few years as a member of the tennis professional institute. He is in perfect position to chase Roger Federer’s record of 17 grand slam titles in order to further cement his legacy as one of the best of all time. He can also extend his dominance over his notable rivalries with other top players in the men’s game, namely Federer, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic.
For sure, there are plenty more to expect from the precocious kid from Spain. His body is his biggest enemy. If he wins that battle, he will undoubtedly win many more wars on the tennis court.