Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest players in the history of Tennis. Along with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal has won 20 Grand Slam titles. However, he is slightly ahead of Federer and Djokovic in that he has won the Olympic gold both in singles and doubles. So, Rafael Nadal is only the second individual after Andre Agassi to win the Golden Grand Slam. Out of his 20 Grand Slams, he has won a staggering 13 just in the French Open.
Rafael Nadal is the ‘Emperor of Clay’ and he has demonstrated it plenty of times in his 16-year career. Nadal has lost only three times at Roland Garros in over half-a-decade. He has won more French Opens than Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg’s tally of overall Grand Slam wins. May would want to pigeonhole Rafael Nadal as a clay-court specialist, but he is an all-surface player who has tamed Federer on a consistent basis. Although Djokovic has a better head-to-head record, he has not had it easy against the Spaniard.
The ‘Freak from Mallorca’ as Andre Agassi described him has gone on to win four US Opens, one Australian Open, and two Wimbledon titles. From an individual coming from Spain and honing on his skills on clay courts, Rafael Nadal has ensured that his play on all surfaces makes him a thorough legend.
It is perhaps his Wimbledon success that has been the crowning glory of his career. The fact that he had to win many titles when Federer was at the peak of his powers shows his skill. He won his only Australian Open by beating Federer in an epic five-set encounter in 2009. Nadal has consistently denied Federer the chance to win the French Open. It was at Wimbledon that Federer enjoyed a slight edge, beating him in two consecutive finals in 2006 and 2007.
The final in 2007, though, laid the foundation for an epic rivalry with Federer. It was the first time since 2001 that Federer was stretched to five sets in Wimbledon. But, in 2008, Nadal was involved in one of the greatest matches of the modern era in which he finally ended Federer’s hold in Wimbledon.
By the time the year 2008 came, Rafael Nadal had already won the French Open four consecutive times. Nadal signaled his intention to go for the Wimbledon crown when he won the Stella Artois Open in Queen’s. The Spaniard had won 23 consecutive matches. Federer, on the other hand, won for the fifth time in Halle and reached the final of Wimbledon without dropping a set.
Nadal had a smooth path to the final where he encountered Federer for the third straight time. The match proved to be the ultimate classic.
Nadal won the first two sets 6-4,6-4 and was on the cusp of upsetting Federer. But, the Swiss Maestro held firm and won the next two sets via tie-breaks. One tie-breaker was won 7-5 and the other was won 10-8. The match boiled down to the fifth set. No one yielded an inch as both Federer and Nadal staged a gladiatorial contest on Centre Court.
To compound matters further, there were rain delays which stretched the whole duration of the game to seven hours. In near darkness, Nadal was leading 8-7 in the final set. Federer netted the ball and Nadal had won the title for the first time. At four hours and 48 minutes of playing time, it was the second-longest championship match in Wimbledon at that time. Many called it as the ‘Greatest Matches to have ever been played’.
Federer, who lost the titanic tussle, highlighted the mood of the match and the aftermath. “It was not a whole lot of fun, but that’s the way it is. It’s over, what’s the point in arguing about it? Probably later on in life, I’ll go ‘That was a great match.’ I’m happy with the way I fought. That’s all I could really do,” Federer said.
|Wimbledon 2008 Final||Roger Federer||6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7|
The year 2010 was proving to be a year of crossroads for Nadal and Federer. After his win at the Australian Open in 2009, he did not win any Grand Slam titles until 2010. He won the French Open yet again but many considered his 2008 win in Wimbledon as a fluke. Nadal was out to prove them wrong.
In the 2010 Wimbledon championships, he did not start well. Nadal had to play two consecutive five-set matches in the second and third round. The Spaniard bounced back on both occasions and reached the quarterfinal. He finally got his revenge against Robin Soderling, who handed Nadal his first loss at Roland Garros in 2009.
|Wimbledon 2010 Final||Tomas Berdych||6-3, 7-5,6-4|
To make matters slightly easy, Federer crashed out in the quarterfinal after losing to Tomas Berdych. Nadal met Berdych in the final but unlike 2008, this was a one-sided affair. Nadal won the final against Berdych in straight sets 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. This was the last win for Nadal in Wimbledon as he struggled in the next decade. Overall, he has won 53 and lost 12 matches in Wimbledon over a 14-year period of appearances.
Nadal may have won only two Wimbledon titles, but those wins showed that he was simply an extraordinary player who got the better of players deemed better than him. Here is the overall