March 20 is a significant day for Spanish tennis. The 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz became world no. 1 for the second time, and the 36-year-old Rafael Nadal left the top-10 for the first time in almost 18 years. Rafa entered the top-10 in April 2005, a couple of days before Carlos' second birthday!
Nadal embraced an incredible streak of 912 consecutive weeks in the top-10, setting the record that should take some beating in the future. Rafa had a breakthrough run at 18 in 2005, winning 11 ATP titles, including Roland Garros and four Masters 1000 crowns!
Nadal conquered the Barcelona Open at the end of April to enter the top-10, staying in the elite group for almost 18 years. It was a bumpy ride for a 22-time Major winner, especially in 2015 and 2016, when he barely kept himself in the elite group due to injuries and the lack of form.
Rafael Nadal is out from the top-10 for the first time since April 2005.
However, Rafa survived and turned a page in 2017, performing an incredible comeback and returning to where he belonged. Nadal claimed the opening two Major titles in 2022, looking good to becoming world no.
1 at 36. Instead, he injured his abdominal muscle at Wimbledon, surviving a thriller against Taylor Fritz and withdrawing ahead of the semi-final duel with Nick Kyrgios. Rafa revealed a seven-millimeter tear and played only nine matches by the end of the season.
Nadal lost five of them and rattled off four straight defeats for the first time since 2009! Failing to raise his level, Rafa made a slow start to the 2023 season at the United Cup, heading to the Australian Open without form and confidence.
Rafa lost to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round and dropped almost 2000 ATP points. To make things worse, the veteran injured his left hip and missed Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami. With no significant points since the last year's Roland Garros, Rafa dropped out from the top-10 and terminated one of the most impressive streaks in men's tennis history.
On the other hand, things could not be better for his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz. A teenager recovered from an injury and claimed two titles from three finals in 2023. Carlos conquered his third Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells without dropping a set and became world no. 1 for the second time.