Rafael Nadal played only 29 matches in 2021, dealing with setbacks and ending his season at the beginning of August due to a foot injury. The 20-time Major champion Nadal will finish the season inside the top-10, but he won't qualify for the ATP Finans for the first time since 2004!
The Spaniard had many ups and downs in the past due to injuries, and he would still do enough to wrap up the year in the top-8 and at least punch a ticket for the season-ending ATP event, despite skipping it six times. The two-time ATP Finals finalist is the only player with 16 consecutive appearances at the premium ATP tournament.
He failed to extend that record when Jannik Sinner passed him on the ATP Race list on Friday night after reaching the Vienna quarter-final. In January, Nadal injured his back in Adelaide while preparing for the Australian Open, skipping the ATP Cup and entering the season's opening Major with question marks above his head.
Rafael Nadal fails to qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time since 2004.
The Spaniard gave his best to make a challenging run in Melbourne, winning the opening four matches without losing a set and creating a massive two sets to love advantage against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters.
Experiencing an enormous blow, Nadal lost three consecutive sets and hit the exit door, withdrawing from Rotterdam and Miami and returning in Monte Carlo on his beloved clay. Targeting another title in the Principality, Rafa lost in the quarters to Andrey Rublev in three sets before securing the 12th Barcelona Open crown.
In the final, Nadal endured a stern test from Tsitsipas and beat the Greek in three hours and 38 minutes after fending off a match point. Alexander Zverev was too strong for Rafa in Madrid, and the Spaniard bounced back in Rome, saving match points against Denis Shapovalov and beating Novak Djokovic in the final to secure his 36th Masters 1000 crown and the first since 2019.
Seeking the 14th crown at his Parisian kingdom, Nadal suffered only the third Roland Garros defeat in the semis to Novak Djokovic, falling after four hours and 11 minutes and feeling a sharp pain in his foot in the fourth set.
Staying away from the court for three weeks, Nadal skipped Wimbledon and the Olympic Games before testing his foot in Washington at the beginning of August. After two challenging matches, the Spaniard decided to wrap up the season and take care of injury ahead of 2022, eager to extend his career and fight for notable titles again in the next couple of years.