Player to Watch: Rafael Nadal

Photo by by Ian Gampon, Flickr

Photo by by Ian Gampon, Flickr

Currently ranked No. 1 in the world, Spaniard Rafael Nadal (full name Rafael Nadal Parera) won his first ATP tournament at the age of 15 in 2001—the same year he turned pro. Nadal resides in his hometown Manacor, Mallorca, Spain and has enjoyed at Top 10 ATP ranking since 2005. He began playing tennis at the age of four under the direction of his uncle Toni Nadal, who is still his coach.

Nicknamed the “King of Clay,” Nadal holds the record for greatest number of Roland Garros trophies (eight) and has been regarded by some as the greatest clay court player in history. During his professional tennis career, Nadal has accrued more than $66 million in singles and doubles prize money, including more than $2.2 million thus far in 2014.

Yet Nadal has remained humble about his earnings—creating the Rafa Nadal Foundation in 2008 to assist socially disadvantaged kids and adolescents around the world. And in 2010, Nadal opened the Rafael Nadal Tennis School in Anantapur, India to host tournaments, with an emphasis on training and education.

The Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award was given to him in 2011 for his involvement with the foundation and its contributions to society. However, this is not the first award Nadal has received during his very fruitful pro tennis career. The ATP bestowed him with the Newcomer of Year award in 2003; Most Improved Player of Year in 2005; Player of Year in 2008, 2010 and 2013; and the 2013 Comeback Player of Year award.

Nadal has won eight doubles titles and 62 singles titles, including the U.S. Open in 2010 and 2013. The left-handed player’s career best was in 2005 with 11 titles, followed by 10 titles won in 2013 (after returning from a knee injury). Nadal can boast 13 Grand Slam singles title wins. Since 2005, he has claimed the French Open singles title every year except for 2009 when Roger Federer snatched the victory.

Nadal is only the third man in tennis history to have claimed 13 Grand Slam titles, preceded by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. Federer currently holds the distinguished record of most Grand Slam titles at an impressive 18 wins while Sampras topped out at 14 Grand Slam titles. Fans will have to keep a close eye on Nadal in 2014 to see how he fares beneath the pressure to wrap his hands around a 14th Grand Slam title.

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