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Gacetillas de Prensa | Adekeye Adebajo | The greatness of Rafael Nadal

Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal’s recent victory at the French Open was his 14th at Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam victory, taking him – at 36 years old – two ahead of his “big three” arch-rivals: Swiss, Roger Federer; and Serb, Novak Djokovic.

It is incredible to think how many more majors he might have won if Nadal had not been forced to miss 11 Grand Slams through injury. The 40-year old Federer, recovering from a knee injury, is unlikely to win any more majors. Only the 35-year old Djokovic could yet surpass Nadal’s record. Rafa’s achievements also include winning all four Grand Slams at least twice – four US Open titles, two Wimbledon, and two Australian titles. He won Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles and has also lifted five Davis Cups with Spain

Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal’s recent victory at the French Open was his 14th at Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam victory, taking him – at 36 years old – two ahead of his “big three” arch-rivals: Swiss, Roger Federer; and Serb, Novak Djokovic.

It is incredible to think how many more majors he might have won if Nadal had not been forced to miss 11 Grand Slams through injury. The 40-year old Federer, recovering from a knee injury, is unlikely to win any more majors. Only the 35-year old Djokovic could yet surpass Nadal’s record. Rafa’s achievements also include winning all four Grand Slams at least twice – four US Open titles, two Wimbledon, and two Australian titles. He won Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles and has also lifted five Davis Cups with Spain.

BOY FROM MALLORCA Rafael Nadal Parera grew up in a five-storey building on the Spanish island of Mallorca, with his businessman father Sebastián, homemaker mother Ana María, and younger sister, María Isabel. His footballer uncle, Miguel Ángel, played for Mallorca, Barcelona, and the Spanish national team, granting young Rafa access to his Brazilian Barcelona idol, Ronaldo. Another uncle, Toni, a tennis coach, recognised his nephew’s natural tennis talent at the age of four. Four years later, the precocious Rafa won a regional under-12 championship. The natural right-hander was converted into a left-handed tennis player by his uncle

By 12, Rafa had won Spanish and European tennis championships though he never gave up his passion for football, often watching his beloved Real Madrid, including during the recent Champions League final victory against Liverpool in Paris. He travelled to Johannesburg in 2010 to see the Spanish football team lift the World Cup. Nadal turned professional at 15 in 2001, helping Spain defeat the US at the Davis Cup three years later.

AN EXPLOSIVE DECADE (2005-2014) It was in 2005 that Rafa – as a raw 19-year old – exploded on to the global tennis stratosphere by winning the French Open, rising to world number three. Wearing his trademark bandana, he resembled more an Aztec warrior than a Spanish conquistador. The hallmark of Nadal’s game has been that of a master matador with the ferociousness of a prowling tiger and a never-say-die attitude. He unleashes killer forehand groundstrokes with heavy backspin and a sledgehammer double-handed backhand. With quick footwork, uncanny anticipation, and using devastating speed to cover the court, he is a supreme problem-solver and one of the game’s greatest returners of serve. He is consistently magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.

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