Rafael Nadal has earned another ranking milestone on Monday, becoming the third player with 816 weeks in the top-10. Roger Federer is the leader of the pack with 946 weeks (helped a lot by the ATP's protected ranking during the pandemic), with Nadal matching Jimmy Connors in the second place.
The American had 816 weeks in the elite group, and the Spaniard will pass him in seven days to trail only behind Federer. Nadal cracked the top-10 in April 2005, still at 18. Sixteen years later, the 20-time Major champion is still among the world's leading players, celebrating the 800th consecutive top-10 week in January as the first player to achieve that!
The 16-year-old Nadal entered the 2003 season ranked just outside the top-200, playing high-level tennis to maintain the meteoric progress through the ATP ranking list. After 19 Challenger triumphs (title in Barletta and three finals) and the third-round appearance in Monte Carlo, Rafa cracked the top-100 in April and stayed on a steady course in the following months to find himself in the top-50 by August.
Despite a nasty injury that halted his progress in the spring of 2004, Nadal won the first ATP title in Sopot in August and helped Spain claim the Davis Cup title at the end of the season, gathering momentum ahead of 2005.
That proved to be Nadal's first great season, competing in the fourth round of the Australian Open before conquering Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco on beloved clay.
Rafael Nadal became the third player with 816 weeks in the top-10.
The best was yet to come for an extraordinary teenager, standing two points away from winning the Miami crown against Roger Federer and lifting the first Masters 1000 trophy in Monte Carlo a few weeks later.
Hungry for more, Rafa headed to Barcelona with no rest and defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero in the best-of-five final to secure another title and additional 300 points that propelled him into the top-10 for the first time! At 18 years and ten months, Rafa became the eighth-youngest player in the mentioned group since the beginning of the ATP ranking in 1973 after Aaron Krickstein, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Andrei Medvedev.
Embracing the top-10 honor on April 25, 2005, Nadal has never left the group, counting one tremendous or at least reliable season after another to gather 800 top-10 weeks in a unique milestone. Five months later, Rafa will take second place on the top-10 charts, hoping to stay competitive for a couple of more years and celebrate 900 weeks in the elite group.
In his darkest seasons in 2015 and 2016, Rafa dealt with injuries and stayed away from Major titles, struggling against the rivals from the top and barely keeping himself in the exclusive group to continue his streak. Returning at his best in 2017, Rafa has been ranked in the top-3 ever since, joining Federer on 20 Major crowns last October and seeking more records in 2021.