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Sporty Sam

I love most sports, but particularly rugby union, rugby league, football, cricket, tennis, athletics, boxing, golf, jai alai, Formula 1 and The Olympic Games. I hate American football and wrestling and will not watch it. This blog is about the sports I like.

Rafael Nadal
Monday, April 8, 2024 @ 8:48 AM

When a young Rafael Nadal burst onto the tennis scene in the early 2000s, he had an instant impact. He was different; he dressed like a pirate, he was surly and he played in a different way. He was good. And he started beating all the great players. I didn’t like him at all, back then.


Now 20 years on, it’s a different story.


The Early Days

Rafael Nadal, a Spanish tennis player, was born in Manacor, Mallorca in 1986. Despite being a right-hander, his uncle and coach Toni Nadal encouraged him to play left-handed, which the latter argued would give him an advantage against other players, most of whom were right-handed.

Reaching the world No. 2 ranking and winning 16 titles before turning 20, including his first French Open and six Masters events, Nadal became the world No. 1 for the first time in 2008 after defeating Roger Federer (Switzerland) in a historic Wimbledon Final, his first major victory not on clay.

He followed up his win with an Olympic singles gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After defeating Novak Djokovic (Serbia) in the 2010 US Open final, the then-24-year-old Nadal became the youngest man in the Open Era to achieve the Career Grand Slam, and the first man to win majors on three different surfaces (hard, grass and clay) in the same year, known as a Surface Slam.



Nadal has won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award five times and was the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year in 2011 and 2021. 

Time magazine named Nadal one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022.

He is a recipient of the Grand Cross of Royal Order of Sports Merit, Grand Cross of Order of the Second of May, the Grand Cross of Naval Merit and the Medal of the City of Paris.

Representing Spain, he has won two Olympic gold medals, and led the nation to four Davis Cup titles.

Nadal has also opened a tennis academy in Mallorca, and is an active philanthropist.


Playing style

“It is important to have true inner humility, not false humility, accepting that it's not always good, bad moments are better tolerated. People sometimes exaggerate this business of humility. It's simply a question of knowing who you are, where you are, and that the world will continue exactly as it is without you.”

Nadal, speaking to the press at the 2008 US Open.


As a left-handed player, one of Nadal's main strengths has been his forehand, which he hits with a high degree of topspin. He also regularly places among the Tour leaders in percentage of return games, return points, and break points won.

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 semi-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.



Yandell concluded:

“The first guys we did were (Pete) Sampras and (Andre) Agassi. They were hitting forehands that in general were spinning about 1,800 to 1,900 revolutions per minute. Federer is hitting with an amazing amount of spin, too, right? 2,700 revolutions per minute. Well, we measured one forehand Nadal hit at 4,900. His average was 3,200.”


Going forward

Nadal has suffered periods of injury throughout his career, largely caused by the way he plays, which takes a huge toll on his body.

He is currently injured, in early April 2024. He has withdrawn from several tournaments including the Australian Open and the Monte-Carlo Masters, in the hope that he can get fit for the three remaining Grand Slams, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Whether he gets to play those tournaments or not, 2024 is likely to be his final year of competion.



“Nadal is, without a doubt, the best athlete in the history of Spain. Spain has to pay him a tribute for many, many years. Nadal is the king of Roland Garros and of world tennis. He has achieved a record that is very difficult to beat.”

— King Felipe VI, on Nadal's legacy after he won his 22nd Grand Slam at the French Open in 2022.


Rafa Nadal has won the second-most major men’s singles titles in tennis history (22) behind Djokovich on 24 and ahead of Federer on 20. He has also won the second-most Big titles (59). He appeared in the Top 10 of the ATP rankings consecutively from April 2005 to March 2023 – a record spanning 912 weeks.

He stands alone in the Open Era as the player with the most clay court titles (63), consisting of an all-time record 14 French Open titles, 12 Barcelona Open titles, 11 Monte-Carlo Masters titles, and 10 Italian Open titles.

His 14 French Open titles are a record at any single tournament, and he holds the record for the longest single-surface winning streak in matches (81 on clay) and in sets (50 on clay) in the history of the Open Era.

Nadal's dominance on clay is reflected by his honorific title as the "King of Clay", and he is widely regarded as the greatest clay-court player in history. Nadal is considered by many to be the greatest player in tennis history because of his record and evolution into an all-court champion.

Nadal played an instrumental role in taking Spain to four Davis Cup crowns, and is the winner of two Olympic gold medals.

He is one of two men, along with Agassi, to win the Olympic gold medal as well as the four majors in singles in his career, a feat known as a Career Grand Slam.

He is the only male player in history to complete the Career Grand Slam and win an Olympic gold medal in both singles and doubles. 

He is one of four men in history, along with Roy Emerson (Australia), Rod Laver (Australia) and Novak Djokovic, to complete the double Career Grand Slam in singles.



Rafa, you have had a fantastic career. When you first appeared I didn't like you, but that has changed. Now I think you are one of the best things that happened to lawn tennis. And you are a true gentleman. Enjoy your final season and have a great life. Thank you.





© Sporty Sam




El Confidencial



Paul Whitelock






Agassi, Alamy, Australian Open, Djokovich, El Confidencial, emprendedores, Federer, French Open, Grand Slam, Mallorca, Manacor, Marca, Nadal, Olympic, Paul Whitelock, Rafael Nadal, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, SportsKeeda, Sporty Sam, Toni Nadal, US Open, Wikipedia, Wimbledon, YouTube



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