After dealing with injuries in 2003 and 2004, Rafael Nadal was ready to show his full potential in 2005. The Spanish teenager claimed 11 ATP titles, including the first Major at Roland Garros and four Masters 1000 events, earning enough points to become the second-youngest year-end top-2 player after Boris Becker.
Nadal would end in the top-2 every year for the next six seasons, becoming the year-end no. 1 player in 2008 and 2010 and trailing to Federer and Djokovic in others. At 25, Nadal left Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe behind him on six year-end top-2 finishes, and he secured the eighth honor in 2013.
The Spaniard had to wait for a couple of years to extend his run, struggling with injuries in the following three seasons and returning to the top in 2017 after an incredible run that saw him winning two Majors. Once he returned to the top-2 that year, Nadal stayed there before younger players took his place until the current season.
The Spaniard secured four year-end top-2 awards between 2017-2020 to become the record holder with 12, moving ahead of Roger Federer, who stayed on 11. To highlight the achievement, we should know that only ten players have managed to finish the year in the top-2 at least four times, with Nadal having streaks of seven and four!
Rafa kicked off the previous season as the world's leading player, defending Spain's colors at the ATP Cup. He lost two matches against David Goffin and Novak Djokovic in the final, allowing Novak to reduce the deficit at the top and remain on his trail in Melbourne.
Rafa lost to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open in the quarters, missing his chances and falling in four tight sets. Nadal's 85th ATP title came in Acapulco at the end of February, and he missed the season restart in August before continuing the season in September.
Rafael Nadal became the first player with 12 year-end top-2 finishes.
Rafa lost the Rome Masters crown in the quarter-final clash against Diego Schwartzman, heading to Roland Garros with three matches in his legs in seven months!
It was Rafa's last opportunity to secure a Major trophy in 2020, facing unusual conditions like never before in the French capital! Despite cold and rainy weather, the new Wilson balls and a roof above Court Philippe-Chatrier, the king of clay confirmed his greatness, securing the 13th Roland Garros crown without losing a set and catching Roger Federer's 20 Major trophies.
In the title match, Nadal defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, playing on a high level from start to finish in one of the most important encounters of the century and earning a massive record at 34. Rafa returned to Paris for the Masters 1000 event a few weeks later and suffered the semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev before passing the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals.
Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev in the semis before suffering a 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 defeat to finish the season and take a well-deserved vacation. Dealing with injuries, Rafa failed to secure another year-end top-2 honor in 2021, hoping for a fresh start in the upcoming season and more notable titles on his tally.