Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2006

Winner of his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2005, Rafael Nadal suffered a foot injury in the fall that could have put an end to his career. He missed the Australian Open in 2006 but came back and fought his way to a second Roland Garros title.

Extract from Nadal’s autobiography, Rafa:

Returning to Monte Carlo that year was like coming home. Once again I came up against Federer in the final, and once again I won. Then I faced him again in the final at Rome. It was a killer match, a true test of whether I recovered from my injury. I had. The match went to five sets, lasted five hours; I saved two match points, and I won. And then it was Roland Garros and a chance I thought I’d never have just four months earlier of preserving my French Open crown. It meant more to me to be back here now than it had to be here the year before, even though tgat had been my first time. Winning this would mean, for me and my family, that the nightmare we’d gone through would be, if not forgotten, exorcised, and we could resume, in a clear and confident state of mind, the victorious trajectory that had been so nearly terminally curtailed. And I had a point to prove: I wanted to show that my win in 2005 had not been a one-off, that I was in the Grand Slam league to stay.

I made it to the final by a tough route, beating some of the top players of the moment, among them Robin Soderling, Lleyton Hewitt and, in the quarterfinals, Novak Djokovic. A year younger than me, Djokovic was a hell of a player, temperamental but hugely talented. Toni and I had been talking about him and I’d been watching him in my rearview miror, looming closer, for a while now. He’d been racing up the rankings, and I had a strong feeling that he would be neck and neck with me before too long, that it would not just be me, but me and him, against Federer. Djokovic had a strong serve and was fast and wiry and strong – often dazzling – on both forehand and backhand. Above all, I could see he had big ambitions and a winner’s temperament. More a hard court than a clay court player, he was competitive enough to make it difficult for me in the Roland quarters. I won the first two sets 6-4 6-4, and was preparing for a long afternoon’s work when unfortunately for him, but fortunately for me, he had to pull out with an injury.

In the final it was Federer again. I lost the first set 6-1, but won the next three, the final one on a tiebreak. Wathing the video of the match later, I thought Federer played better than me overall, but in an atmosphere of high tension (he, so eager to complete the foursome of major titles; me, so desperate to banish the ghosts of my exile), I stuck it out.

As Carlos Moya saw it, Federer was not fully Federer when he played against me. Carlos said I had beaten him by attrition, badgering him into untypical mistakes for a man of such enormous natural talent. That had been the plan, but I also think I won because I’d won the year before and that gave me a confidence I might otherwise have lacked, especially against Federer. Whatever the case, I’d won my second Grand Slam.

After all I had been through, it was an incredibly emotional moment. I ran up in the stands, as I had done the year before, and this time it was my father I sought. We hugged hard and we were both crying. “Thank you, Daddy, for everything!” I said. He doesn’t like to show his feelings. He had felt the need to look strong and composed during my injury, but it was not until now that I fully grasped how hard he’d battled to stop himself from breaking down. Then I hugged my mother, who was also in tears. The thought that filled my mind at that moment of victory was that it as their support that had pulled me through. Winning the French Open in 2006 meant that we’d come through the worst; we’d overcome a challenge we feared might overwhelm us, and we had come out the stronger for it. For my father, I know, that was the moment of greatest joy of my entire career.

Rafael Nadal at practice, Madrid 2016

After two victories in two weeks in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Rafael Nadal lost to defending champion Andy Murray in the Madrid Open semifinals. Next tournament for Rafa: Rome, where he could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

A few pictures from Nadal’s practices this week in Madrid:

Rafael Nadal at practice, Madrid 2016

Rafael Nadal at practice, Madrid 2016
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Olympic gold medallist Rafael Nadal

14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal was named Spain’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Games:

Nadal was chosen as the country’s flag bearer for the 2012 London Games, but had to pull out with an injury and was replaced by his friend Pau Gasol.

“For me it was an amazing feeling when I was told I would carry [the flag] in 2012. It was terrible news when I had to pull out of London. I’ve missed Grand Slams and Davis Cups in my career but the toughest thing was the 2012 Olympics.”

Rafa won the gold in Beijing in 2008 and it remains one of the biggest moments of his career:

“To see the Spanish flag being raised to the accompaniment of the national anthem as I stood on the winner’s podium: well, it was one of my life’s proudest moments.”

Stay tuned for more Olympics coverage on Tennis Buzz.

Rafael Nadal posing with the trophy, Barcelona Open 2016

Nadal defeated Nishikori in two tight sets 6-4 7-5 to claim his second title in two weeks. With his victory, he equals Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 clay court titles.

Nadal: “It was a very close match. There were a lot of chances for both of us but I think I have been solid. When you play against players with such a high level, the match is often decided by a few moments. So I feel happy that I handled all these important moments well mentally.”

Final del Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell: Rafa Nadal - Kei Nishikori

Final del Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell: Rafa Nadal - Kei Nishikori
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Rafa Nadal, Barcelona Open 2016

Rafa admitted he played his worst match of the tournament in the semifinal, but it was still enough to defeat Kohlschreiber in straight sets and advance to the final.
Nadal aims to clinch his record ninth Barcelona title, while Nishikori seeks to become the third player in history (after Mats Wilander and Rafael Nadal) to lift the Conde de Godo Trophy three years in a row.

Escort Kids

Escort Kids con Rafael Nadal

Escort Kids con Rafael Nadal

Escort Kids con Nadal y Kohlschreiber

Jornada del 24/04/2016 en la 64º edición del Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell

Rafael Nadal entre la marea de aficionados

Kei Nishikori is the two-time defending champion:

Kei Nishikori alzando el 62 Trofeo Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Entrega del trofeo del Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Rafa Nadal won the tournament 8 times, the last time in 2013:

Final Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell Trofeo Conde de Godó

Nishikori or Nadal, who do you think will win?

Photo credit: Banc Sabadell