Rafael Nadal: Tennis’s GOAT



Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning against Australia’s Jordan Thompson in three sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, during their first round match at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

As professional Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal is on the verge of claiming this year’s French Open title, his iconic career and tennis skills are clearly among the best in the game. His superb talent across his 21-year career has catapulted him into the tennis spotlight and should earn him the title of tennis’s GOAT.

Based on his stats alone, Nadal proves to be exceptionally impressive throughout the entirety of his career. The Spaniard ranks third in earnings with $128+ million USD and has some noticeable career victories. Nadal brought home the men’s singles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and, eight years following, won the men’s doubles gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with fellow Spaniard Marc López. Focusing on the numbers, across his whole career Nadal has 1,057 wins, 212 losses, and holds 91 career titles, 21 of those being Majors. After beating Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open, 24-year-old Nadal became the youngest man in the Open Era to achieve the career Grand Slam (won all four major titles) and the first man in tennis history to win three Majors on three different surfaces (hard, grass, and clay) in the same year. Nadal is also the only male player in history to complete the career Grand Slam and win gold medals in both singles and doubles at the Olympics.

Nadal currently holds the most Grand Slam titles (21) in tennis history, one more than Djokovic and Roger Federer’s 20 titles. While Nadal has had obvious success on all surfaces, there is no doubt that he is best on clay. He has 62 clay-court titles, 13 from the French Open. He has been nicknamed the “King of Clay” and is widely regarded as the greatest clay-court player in history.

Nadal’s 2022 Australian Open finals match against Daniil Medvedev is arguably one of his most iconic matches ever. Viewers watched in awe as Nadal orchestrated an unimaginable comeback against a player ten years younger than he. Nadal defeated Medvedev with these scores: 2-6, 6-7(7-5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. After this triumph, Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win an Australian Open final after losing the first two sets. Nadal demonstrated immense grit and perseverance in this match, never giving up and playing until the last point to obtain his well-deserved win.

Off the court, Nadal owns his own facility called the Rafa Nadal Academy with a notable addition called the Rafa Nadal Museum Xperience. Toni Nadal, Nadal’s uncle, was his first coach when he began playing at age four, and Toni works at the facility as the head of the academy. The facility includes a junior player’s room, an international school, a player’s gym, a fitness center, some hard-court tennis courts, the museum, and more. The museum includes Nadal’s many trophies and iconic items from other athletes outside of tennis, as he wanted to display different sports figures and to recognize their achievements.

All of Nadal’s peers speak extremely highly of him, as he always illustrates exemplary sportsmanship. He has been credited with having a great work ethic, exhibited by the fact that he is still in extraordinary shape for a 36-year-old. Nadal is a very level-headed player, never having tantrums on the court or letting his emotions get the best of him, and although he is a clear fan favorite among tennis fans globally, he never plays off the crowd but instead shows great appreciation for his support and his success.

Tennis as a whole is an exceptionally difficult sport, considering it is completely independent unless you are a doubles player. Since it is such an individual support, it is physically and mentally challenging for the athlete, as you must completely rely on yourself and your own skills. Never being able to talk to your coach or to your box can make long and grueling matches especially isolating and arduous. In tennis, everything comes down to the singular player, making tennis players some of the best athletes in the world, with Rafael Nadal definitely being one of them.