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 crown at Roland Garros and four Masters 1000 events, finishing as the second-youngest year-end top-2 player after Boris Becker.
For the next six seasons, Nadal would end in the top-2 every year, becoming the year-end no. 1 player in 2008 and 2010 and trailing to Federer and Djokovic in other seasons. At 25, Nadal left Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe behind him on six year-end top-2 finishes, securing 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 season that saw him winning two Majors. Once he returned to the top-2 that year, Nadal is yet to leave the elite group, securing three more year-end top-2 awards 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 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 Nadal's trail in Melbourne. At the Australian Open, Rafa lost to Dominic Thiem in the quarters, missing his chances and falling in four tight sets.
The Spaniard traveled to Kuwait and Cape Town for exhibition matches against David Ferrer and Roger Federer, returning to the official duties in Acapulco and winning the 85th ATP title. Instead of Indian Wells and Miami, Rafa left home when the coronavirus pandemic plagued the season, staying away from the court in March and April and returning to it in May.
Rafael Nadal is the first player with 12 year-end top-2 finishes.
Not fancying New York conditions and hard court after such a long break, Nadal decided to skip the Cincinnati Masters 1000 event and the US Open, remaining on clay and making a comeback at the Masters 1000 event in Rome in September.
Rafa lost the 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 proved 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, suffering the semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev and passing the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals.
Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev in London before suffering a 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 defeat to finish the season and take a well-deserved vacation. The Spaniard is back on the court, starting the pre-season preparations and hoping to get back at 100% ahead of the Australian Open in February.