An ode to the 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal created history by winning a record 13th French Open and levelling the Grand Slam count at 20 with Roger Federer.
Nadal has been an enigma in the sport of tennis. Be it his everlasting energy, the unending rallies that he plays, chasing every ball as if his life depended on it and the ability to make strong comebacks from nowhere, he is a fighter.
The King of Clay has a staggering 100-2 win-loss record at Roland Garros, which is nothing but superhuman.
He has made numerous comebacks from devastating injuries indicating the immense inner strength that has helped him conquer many mountains in his career.
After making his mark on clay winning the French Open in 2005 and 2006, Nadal tried in vain to defeat Federer in Wimbledon. However, the Swiss was too strong for the Spaniard as he won five consecutive Wimbledon championships from 2003 to 2007.
Nadal had the last laugh overcoming Federer in an epic rain-filled two-day final in 2008. He also overtook Federer to become the World number 1 in the same year.
He called that one of his greatest triumphs and favourite moment of his career in his autobiography, Rafa: My Story.
His rivalry with Djokovic is another exciting battle to talk of. The two have played a record 56 times against each other with the Serb leading the head to head record 29-27.
They have been part of some epic matches be it the Australian Open 2012, French Open finals of 2012 and 2014, and Wimbledon 2018. Djokovic even labelled Rafa as his greatest rival.
A rivalry is always created during epic battles, contrasting styles, and longevity. Nadal's two prime rivals in his career have been Federer and Djokovic.
Nadal has a favourable head to head record against Federer leading 24-16. His strengths have been his wicked topspin-heavy forehand and supreme defense.
He has proven his ability across different surfaces winning a career grand slam and also won the gold medal at the Olympics which Federer and Djokovic have failed to do.
While the Next-Gen is also a big threat to the domination of the Big 3, they sometimes flounder under pressure.
The likes of Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev have everything in their game to challenge Nadal in the future.
However, Djokovic cannot be discounted. At the age of 33, is still physically strong to play for another four to five years at the highest level.
Federer's best chance to win another slam is at the Australian Open or Wimbledon because he has not triumphed in the US Open for the last 12 years.
The race to the top of the grand slam count may be decided between Nadal and Djokovic. Rafa can add more slams to his winning list if his injury problems are sorted out. He will continue to train and play at his best though.
There are many images that stand out with Nadal, the lasso-like forehand, the pirate shorts and sleeveless shorts that he wore during the early days of his career, the forensic placement of his water bottles and the joyous fist pumps.
However, his never say die attitude and laser-like focus has made him stand tall amidst adversity. It is his relentless ability to play every point as nothing else matters except that point that has made him a physical and mental giant today.
He will continue to break new records in the years to come.
Featured Image Credits - Getty Images