The 34-year-old is still going strong in the international circuit.
Rafael Nadal needs no introduction to the world of sports. Even if you are not a tennis fan, you definitely have heard the name. The Spanish superstar is a winner of 20 Grand Slam titles, the highest number of titles won by a player to date.
He shares this distinction along with Roger Federer. A career Grand Slam winner, Nadal has also won the prestigious gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has given us many high-intensity matches and epic performances throughout his career. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest wins of his career:
5. Rafael Nadal vs Grigor Dimitrov (2017 Australian Open Semi-Final)
One of the most iconic contests in Rafael Nadal’s career did not happen in any tournament finals. It happened at the 2017 Australian open semi-finals when he faced off against the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. The match led to an exciting display of tennis at Melbourne Park. The five-hour match really gave the fans an edge of the seat experience.
The Spanish legend held the first set despite facing stiff aggression from the Bulgarian. It took him approximately 35 minutes to win the opening set with a beautiful forehand volley. The next set however went to Dimitrov as he came back back strong. He increased his attacking prowess at the nets to grasp the second set. The third set saw Nadal and Dimitrov exchanging shot for shot with the set going to a tiebreak.
Nadal took the early lead and held it on to take a 2-1 lead overall. The fourth set saw Dimitrov peak his performance as he hit 15 winners. He took the set to a tiebreak and then won it to level the match. In the fifth set, the Spaniard broke through in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and eventually seal the match.
The match ended with a scoreline of 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. After the match Nadal was quoted as saying,” It was a fantastic match. Very emotional”.
4. Rafael Nadal vs Mariano Puerta (2005 French Open Final)
His first Grand Slam victory came at the Roland Garros in 2005. The same tournament where he holds the record for the highest number of Grand Slam wins. The 4th seeded Nadal had defeated his rival the then World No. 1 Roger Federer to make his way into the finals.
The start however did not go as planned as Nadal dropped the first set. But he came back strong and won his first Grand Slam with a back to back set victories. He totally dominated in the second and third set respectively. Puerta tried to make a comeback in the fifth set but to no avail. The match finally ended with Nadal winning 6-7,6-3,6-1,7-5.
3. Rafael Nadal vs Daniil Medvedev (2019 US Open final)
The 2019 US Open final saw a clash between the second-seeded Rafael Nadal and the fourth seed Daniil Medvedev. The Russian star had reached his first Grand Slam final and was determined to lift his first trophy. Nadal on the other hand was looking to win his fourth US Open title.
He started the game in a dominant fashion taking the first two sets. Medvedev came back strongly and took the third and fourth set respectively. It all came down to the fifth and final set to decide the winner. Rafael Nadal kept his composure and responded effectively.
At one point in the fifth set, the Spaniard found himself facing three break points in his opening service game. Not only did he save all three but also managed to take a lead and then won the match by 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4. The tension was in the air till the last minute as Nadal had to save a breakpoint in his last service game.
2. Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer (2009 Australian Open final)
In the 2009 Australian Open final, two of the biggest tennis legends faced each other once again. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met at the Rod Laver Arena with different stakes at hand. For Nadal, it was his first Australian Open final and an opportunity to win a career Grand Slam. Federer, on the other hand, was looking to equal Pete Sampras’s record with 14 Grand Slam wins.
The opening set took 57 minutes which saw the Spaniard hit some beautiful backhands. The second set belonged to the Swiss maestro who won four successive sets. By the end of the second round, Nadal was struggling. He called for his trainer to have his right thigh massaged as the cramps were setting in. However, he saved a total of six break points in the set and took it to a tie break. Federer’s double fault finally gave the set away for Nadal to take a 2-1 lead.
Roger Federer came back strong in the fourth set to level it all up. It was the fifth and final set that Nadal broke for a 3-1 lead. The Swiss superstar did manage to save two match points but the night belonged to Nadal. As soon as Federer’s shot went long the stadium erupted. The 4 hours 23 minutes final ended with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 scoreline. Rafael Nadal became the Australian Open champion for the first time.
1. Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer ( 2008 Wimbledon Final)
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rivalry is considered by many to be the greatest rivalry in tennis history. Whenever these two have met, it has been a poetry in motion on the tennis court. But none of their matches comes close to the 4 hours 48 minutes encounter they had in the Wimbledon finals in 2008.
The centre court of the All England Club truly witnessed a spectacle from these two maestros. Roger was the king of grass courts with a history of dominance at Wimbledon. Nadal came right on his turf and attacked him. The Spaniard won the first two sets with Federer coming back in the third and fourth respectively.
But Rafael did not give up and came back strongly in the fifth set to win his first-ever Wimbledon title. The match finished with a scoreline of 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. The multiple rain delays also extended the match to seven hours.
The tiebreakers played in the game are also considered to be the greatest. Federer saved two back to back championship points in the fifth set but Nadal eventually kept his composure. He broke Federer’s serve in the 15th game of the set. Nadal then went on to hold his serve and close the match.
In the post-match interview, Nadal remarked, “It was a dream to play in this court, but win I never imagined and how happy he was playing against Roger.”