by ALEX RAGHUNANDAN Staff Writer
Number one tennis player in the world, winner of 13 Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold medalist, and only 27, Rafael Nadal is a force with whom to be reckoned.
Nadal began training as a tennis player as a child when his uncle, Toni Nadal, taught him how to play. In 2001, at the age of 15, Nadal became a professional, and immediately began his ascent to become the number one tennis player in the world.
“I cannot believe that Nadal became a professional at 15. Like I’m almost 15 and I’m just trying to maintain softball practice and getting good grades,” said freshman Sydney Strauber.
At only 17 years old, Nadal was matched against the number one tennis player at the time, Roger Federer, in 2004. Winning every set, Nadal triumphantly defeated Federer. Nine small games called sets make up a match, and the first player to win five games wins.
From 2002 to 2004, Nadal went from number 762 to number 51 in the whole world for men’s tennis.
Nadal had many victories in 2005, including his first Grand Slam Title, which is winning the US Open, French Open, Australian Open, or Wimbledon tournaments.
During the French Open, Nadal once again defeated Federer, placing him in the finals. During the finals, he won against Mariano Puerta. This made him the second man to win the French Open on his first try, and one of the youngest at 19 years old.
Later that year, Nadal lost during the second round of the Wimbledon.
Following his defeat, Nadal won 16 consecutive matches, including three tournaments. These victories and his win at the French Open gave him the number two ranking in the world by the end of 2005.
The following year was just as successful for Nadal. Although Nadal faced some losses toward the beginning of the year, he brought his A-game to the French Open.
Federer and Nadal met once again during the finals of the French Open in 2006, leading to one of the most notable games in Nadal’s and Federer’s careers. After tying four sets each, a tie breaker was called. The game went on for hours, but Nadal finally won the set and the French Open two years in a row.
Nadal spent the next 18 months playing in tournaments and continuously winning with very few losses.
He won his third French Open title and his first Wimbledon title after defeating Federer once again. It was the longest tennis match in history due to rain delays, but critics call it one of the best tennis games ever.
“I remember watching the match between Nadal and Federer with my mom when I was little. It was so long, but I’ve never seen my mom so happy once Nadal finally won,” said freshman Ayesha Kunjappan.
In 2008, Nadal was officially named the number one men’s tennis player in the world, beating out Federer who held the spot for almost five years.
Just like thousands of other athletes, Nadal headed to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. He famously beat Novak Djoković and Fernandez Gonzalez, earning his first and only Olympic Gold Medal in men’s singles tennis.
Over the next couple of years, Nadal was finally awarded the Australian Open Title in 2009 and the US Open title in 2010. As the winner of all four Grand Slam titles as of 2010 and an Olympic medalist, Nadal was given the Golden Slam title, which has only been given to 18 other tennis players ever.
Since 2010, Nadal has continued to play internationally, winning tournaments in Qatar, India, China, and more. He holds the record for most consecutive Grand Slam victories. He has also won a title every year since 2005, including eight French Open titles.
In 2014, Nadal was runner-up in the Australian Open, but is still on track for many more victories this year, and for years to come.
How do you think Nadal can improve as a player in order to keep his record streak and win another Grand Slam title this year?