Will the Spanish powerhouse’s body hold together long enough for him to overtake his tennis nemesis?
In the second of our three-part series, we look at the matador among the three tennis greats in the modern men’s game and ask which one will end with the most Grand Slam victories.
Rafael Nadal shouldn’t be as successful as he has been. The Spaniard, who hails from Mallorca, has become the current second-highest ranking men’s tennis player in history and the inspiration for a rivalry of his generation.
Fearsomely competitive, Rafael Nadal epitomises the ethic that a point is never over in tennis until it is over. He will throw himself into any position on the court in an effort which sometimes looks painful, just to get the ball back over the net.
Nadal, a record 12-time winner at Roland Garros, has become known as the ‘King of Clay’. But in truth, Nadal’s record in tournaments outside France are what separate him from merely a great player to one who transcends sport. Nadal is a gladiator, a man to whom defeat has no definition in his dictionary.
Down and almost on his knees both literally and metaphorically on countless occasions in his career, both through injury and adversity on the court, Nadal has come back time and time again to remind us of his greatness, as if it might be forgotten were he not in the spotlight.
Nadal triumphed over Federer in the famous ‘lights out’ Wimbledon final, something his nemesis never achieved at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris. Yet Nadal hasn’t kept his heroics to South London. Nadal has won the Australian Open just once, but he’s also won two Wimbledon titles and an incredible four U.S. Open titles, with his latest arriving on Sunday in phenomenal fashion.
Having won the first two sets and Daniil Medvedev on Sunday evening, Nadal saw himself pegged back to two sets all and up against it, being run around the court by the younger man. However, while no-one would wish to have Nadal’s knees, no-one has his heart or courage. Nadal roared back – quite literally – to take the decisive fifth set, winning his fourth U.S. Open. That’s one less than Federer on a surface far more suited to the Swiss great than the clay court master with the heart of a Matador.
Rafael Nadal has been dodging Federer’s charge for fifteen incredible years. Now, five years younger than his adversary, it is not Nadal’s mind or spirit that will hold him back. Only Nadal’s body, fragile between whipped forehands and under the most extreme pressure in every game, can hold him back.
Rafael Nadal must surely be the favourite to eclipse his great, yet necessary, rival and hold himself together to win the ‘Race to 21’.