After a tough 2015 season that almost kicked him off from the Top 10 for the first time in a decade, Rafael Nadal struggled to deal with the players from the very top in 2016 as well, winning two titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona but winning just 39 matches for the worst score since 2004! A wrist injury forced Rafa to withdraw from the Roland Garros before the third round match against Marcel Granollers and he was sidelined until the second week of August when he entered the Olympic Games in Rio, ready to give his 120% in order to fight for a medal.
With a favorable draw, Nadal reached the semi-final in singles but he couldn't win a medal, losing an amazing semi-final encounter against Juan Martin del Potro in the deciding tie break after three hours and eight minutes and also the bronze medal match to Kei Nishikori in three sets.
2008 Beijing singles gold medalist had still found the way to leave Brazil in glory, winning the doubles gold medal with his great friend Marc Lopez. Between 2009-2011, the pair had won a couple of Doha and Indian Wells titles together and they were the sixth seeds in Rio, hoping for some of the old magic and a chance to win a medal.
They defeated Jean-Julien Rojer and Robin Haase in the opening round before ousting Juan Martin del Potro and Maximo Gonzalez to reach the quarters. There, Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya stood no chance against the Spanish pair that scored a 6-3 6-1 for the place in the semis where they met Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil.
In a super tight encounter, Rafa and Marc prevailed in two tie breaks to secure the medal and set up the gold medal clash against the Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau. After a great battle, Nadal and Lopez prevailed 6-2 3-6 6-4 with a late break in the last game of the match for a huge celebration and emotional reactions on what was one of the biggest wins in a career of both players.
“It was an amazing experience, especially doing that with one of my best friends, with Marc, it was something unforgettable for me, and for both of us,” said Nadal. "To win a gold medal after two and a half months with no practice, with no preparation at all, just working in the gym, is something of a dream.
The moment was unbelievable, and we had fun. We fought hard and we were very, very happy.”
“Sharing such feelings with Rafa, being together at the Olympic village, was really a dream come true.ALSO READ: Simona Halep withdraws from WTA Finals due to a back injury
I was the happiest man on the planet,” added Lopez.