Rafael Nadal from start to today. In this new column, we will explore the Spaniard's career, focusing our analysis in several stages not only on his victories and his records, but also on anecdotes, events that happened behind the scenes, and curiosities.
In short, the genesis of a champion. 2014 was the year of the ninth Roland Garros. It was a memorable victory against Novak Djokovic, thanks to which Rafa surpassed the previously-held record of Max Decugis as the player with the most number of titles at the French Open, with his ninth win at Roland Garros.
With that victory he equaled the 14 Slams of Pete Sampras. A few weeks earlier, Rafa had also won Doha, Rio de Janerio and Madrid. At the beginning of the year, he lost the Australian Open final against Stan Wawrinka, also due to a back injury.
After a subdued Wimbledon, during that he was eliminated by the young Nick Kyrgios, a new injury, this time on the wrist, forced him to skip the whole second part of the season. In a subsequent interviews Rafa said: "The 2014 Australian Open final was the toughest defeat of my career.
Because I wasn't really able to compete in a very important stage. Those hours were probably the worst times I've ever spent on a tennis court in my career." Just 2 years (in 2014) I was number 1, then number 2 and I was close to Novak before I got injured on the wrist and operated on appendicitis, so there is no reason to that I couldn't do it again."
He will do it, but first, he had to go through two nightmare years, especially 2015. The feelings at the beginning of the season were not positive: the Spaniard arrived at the French Open in not perfect psycho-physical conditions: before the Parisian Slam he won only in Buenos Aires.
In Paris, he was defeated by Novak Djokovic. In the final, it was Stan Wawrinka who triumphed sensationally against Nole. After Paris, he only won at the Stuttgart Open, and in Hamburg. For the first time since 2005, he did not win a single Slam.
"Every time I trained and played, I felt very tired, especially in the first 6 months of 2015. In those months, to be honest, I suffered. But in the last two months, I have been having fun again and I'm not worried about my level of tennis.
I have to change in one very important aspect: to be the player I was a year ago." Rafa said about 2015. Talking about 2015, at the end of the season, Uncle Toni said: "Rafa, a few holidays, so you will win again!
Go straight away with training. This year he managed bad emotions, but the negative phase is behind him." In 2016 Rafa started the clay season well, winning Monte-Carlo and Barcelona. At the French Open, he seemed to be the big favorite again, but a new injury forced him to retire in the third round.
He returned to the court for the Rio Olympics, winning the double gold medal with Marc Lopez, and also becoming the flag-bearer of the Spanish Olympics team. A new physical problem forced him to end the season early after the US Open.
That year the dominator of the season was Andy Murray: Nadal and Roger Federer were two old lions now close to retirement, in the opinion of many fans and insiders. Nobody could have imagined what would happen in 2017.