'Rafael Nadal was this giant kid', says former Top 10

Rafa has been dominating the tour and has raised the bar in the men’s game

by Simone Brugnoli
'Rafael Nadal was this giant kid', says former Top 10

After missing six months, Alexander Zverev is set to return to racing in Saudi Arabia in December. Zverev has been the leader of the NextGen since 2017, becoming the first youngster in years capable of fighting against the rivals from the top.

Alexander had been ranked in the top-10 since the end of July of that year, spending five years and three months in the company of the elite. A couple of weeks ago, Zverev became the 18th player since 1973 with 250 consecutive weeks in the top 10, but his path was soon over.

The German fell out of the top-10 after 253 weeks, without playing since Roland Garros and missing out on a chance to embrace his sixth straight annual top-10. Alexander started the 2022 season ranked 3, with a realistic chance to become world no.

1 at some point. Zverev broke into the top-2 for the first time in June, but a serious ankle injury in the Roland Garros semi-final wiped out his further progress. Alexander tore three of his lateral ligaments during the clash against Rafael Nadal.

He gave it his all against the king of clay and kept him on the court for three hours before the end of the second set. Zverev misstepped on the slow clay at the last point of the 12th game of the second set and injured his ankle, falling to the ground and screaming in pain.

Alexander retired against Rafa for the first time in his career, doing everything right for over three hours before a terrible setback. Zverev built the lead in the opening set before Nadal broke again in the eighth game.

Rafa Nadal is a global icon

In the same podcast, Nicolas Lapentti also mentioned his first encounter with a young and tenacious 17-year-old Rafael Nadal in 2003.

“Nadal has this thing that he’s just the best at competing. Every single point, every single week for the past 20 years. It’s 20 years. I played Rafa in 2003, ok? In Bastad. The first time we played, Rafa was 17.

I beat him 7-6 in the third (set). I saved four match points. He was this giant kid, baby face, huge arms fighting like a bull,” he remembered. “So that’s already almost 20 years ago. I mean, he’s been 20 years on tour.

So, that’s the thing that amazes me the most. Is Alcaraz going to be able to stay 10 years on top? Rafa, I think Rafa hasn’t left top-10 in the past 20 years or something. I mean, It’s just crazy," he expressed.

Rafael Nadal