Rafael Nadal is still among the world's leading players at 36. Rafa claimed two Major titles this year, leading the ATP Race ahead of his closest opponents. The Spaniard has experienced many setbacks with injuries during his career, and many predicted that he would end his career much earlier.
Rafa proved them all wrong thanks to his desire to constantly improve the elements of his game and change the approach. After a couple of tough seasons due to injuries and lack of form, Rafa returned at his best in 2017. He conquered two Major titles and became the world's leading player again.
Nadal won five ATP titles in 2018, including Roland Garros and three Masters 1000 crowns. Still, the Spaniard struggled to remain injury-free and embrace a full calendar. He won 45 out of 49 matches and skipped the last part of the season following the US Open.
Rafa worked hard on his game in the following months and returned stronger at the Australian Open in January 2019. The Spaniard made significant changes in his serve and game philosophy, embracing new service motion and attacking right from the first groundstroke to gain the advantage and shorten the points.
Armed with that new package in Melbourne 2019, Nadal sailed into the final after winning all 18 sets. Rafa set the title clash against Novak Djokovic, where he stood no chance and fell in straight sets. Speaking about essential changes in his game following the semi-final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nadal was thrilled with his performance after such a long break.
He wished for more of the same in the upcoming years and achieved that.
Rafael Nadal spoke about his new approach at the Australian Open 2019.
"It is very emotional for me to be back in the Australian Open semi-final.
I had some troubles at this event throughout my career. After a while without being on the court, this result means everything to me, and I want to thank the crowd. It's always special to play on this court at Rod Laver Arena, and I'm thrilled with how I fought tonight.
After such a long break, the possibilities of playing at this level were not that high, and I feel lucky to be where I'm now after everything I went through. I worked on my serve and the first shot during the off-season.
I have hit many winners with my forehand right after the serve here in Melbourne, which is very important for me. If I want to extend my career for a few more years, I will have to find many free points and keep working on that in the future; it is a crucial element for me at this stage.
I enjoy my new serve and the first forehand; I used it before to prepare the point, but it's more efficient now. Carlos Moya joined my team and formed a great combination with Francisco. He gave me the other view of the game, and it was essential to change some things with him on the board.
We are very organized and have good preparations for the matches; we are a great team working together. I have always believed in long-time projects, even now, after having almost the same team for 20 years," Rafael Nadal said.