Twenty-two-year-old Rafael Nadal took home his fourth Roland Garros French Open tennis title in a row recently after defeating Roger Federer in the final.
Nadal is also the seventh to win a Grand Slam without dropping a set. The last person to achieve this feat was his competitor, Roger Federer. Federer won last year's Australian Open, but the magic of his flawless winning streak has fled in lieu of Nadal.
Nadal is a native of Manacor, Majorca, a municipality on the largest of the Balearic Islands. Also known as Rafa, he began playing tennis at a very young age under the instruction of his uncle Toni. Toni taught Rafa to play tennis left handed in order to work on his two-handed backhand. Rafa is naturally right-handed but plays tennis left-handed. When he was 12 years old, Rafa decided to pursue a career in tennis.
By the time he was 15, Rafa had won his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) match. When he was 16, he was ranked among the world's top 100 singles players.
At 17 he became the youngest male tennis player to reach the third round since 1984 when Boris Becker reached that goal at 16 years old. Rafa missed most of the 2004 tennis season due to a fractured left ankle but came back with a vengeance in 2005.
In 2005, a 19-year-old Rafa created quite a name for himself. He reached the fourth round at the Australian Open and reached the final at the Miami Masters Tournament. That same year, he won two ATP Masters Series events and held the longest winning streak of any teen in the open era with 24 consecutive wins.
Considered by his peers to have the potential to be 'the greatest player in history', Roger Federer, 28, holds 12 Grand Slam singles titles.
Federer began playing tennis at six years of age. In 1998 he was recognized by the International Tennis Federation as the ITF World Junior Tennis champion of the year.
That same year he joined the ATP tour and finished the year as the youngest player in the ATP's top 100 ranking. In 2000, he reached the Sydney Olympics semifinals.
In 2001 he won his first ATP tournament and reached the quarter finals at Wimbledon. The victory over Pete Sampras is often considered the turning point in his career. He reached his first ATP Masters Series (AMS) in 2002 as well as several other tournament semifinals and victories. In 2003 he continued his winning streak and defeated Andre Agassi in the final and won the Tennis Masters Cup tournament in Houston, Texas.
Federer won his first Australian Open title in 2004.
During the 2004 season he did not lose to any other player in the top 10 ranking and won every final he attempted.
In 2005 he continued an amazing number of career wins and finished the year with an 82-3 streak with one tie, making his total wins 81. He lost the French Open title but lost in the semi finals to Rafael Nadal. For two more years, 2006-2007, he continued to play fantastic seasons and come face to face with Nadal at the French Open.
Much Anticipated Rivalry
In 2005, Federer won 81 matches. In the same year, Rafa won 79 matches. The following year Rafa and Federer continued their rivalry all the way to the French Open.
Rafa made it to the final and went up against Federer in a match most tennis fans had been anticipating all year. If Federer won, it would be a Calendar Year Grand Slam for him. After a very competitive match, Rafa emerged the victor.
The two came face to face once again in 2007 in the final match of the French Open. Rafa became the first player since 1981 to win the French Open for a third consecutive year. And again, Rafa was the roadblock in Federer's route to a career Grand Slam.
Again, in the 2008 French Open, the two played amazingly well and met on the court in the final game of the French Open tournament. After a very intense game, Rafael Nadal emerged the victor. After the match Federer said, 'Rafa is very, very strong and he dominates this tournament like never before. Congratulations Rafa.'