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Happy Birthday Rafael Nadal: From a 3-Year-Old Starting Tennis to the King of Clay at 33

Happy Birthday Rafael Nadal: As Rafael Nadal attempts to win a record-extending 12th Roland Garros title, we skim through his journey and some interesting facets of his personality.

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Updated:June 3, 2019, 4:11 PM IST
Happy Birthday Rafael Nadal: From a 3-Year-Old Starting Tennis to the King of Clay at 33
Rafael Nadal turns 33 on June 3, 2019. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

For Rafael Nadal, everything started with a 3-year-old picking up a tennis racquet at the behest of his uncle Toni Nadal. For years, that same man sat in his box as he travelled around the world and grew his legend.

Nadal is celebrating his 33rd birthday today and he gave himself an early birthday gift on Sunday when he thrashed Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero to enter the quarter-finals of Roland Garros - a tournament he has won a record 11 times.

Roland Garros is his home, his arena, his big stage where more often than not, he has been the last man standing. With his arms wide open and face up towards the sky, with a wide smile but sweat trickling down his face and arms, Nadal has celebrated many victories in Paris.

He has not had a brilliant year so far. It took him as long as Rome to win his first claycourt tournament this year - a rarity for the clay genius. But it came right before the French Open and the world seemed to be moving in the right direction again.

Day in and day out, Nadal is still walking out on the clay of Paris, looking to conquer a record-extending 12th French Open title.

Such has been his dominance on this surface that Nadal holds the record for the longest single surface win streak in the Open Era with 81 consecutive match wins on clay.

However, the French capital is not the only ground where he has hunted title. Nadal has to his name three US Open titles, two Wimbledon titles, one Australian Open title, 11 Monte-Carlo Masters, 11 Barcelona titles, a record 34 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles, 20 ATP Tour 500 titles and the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles.

What is Nadal best known for? Apart from his hyptonising muscles, it is his fighting spirit and his screams of 'come on' on the tennis court that has helped him make his way into the hearts of millions.

Nadal's career has been laden with injuries. The King of Clay has won 16 Grand Slam titles in his career but if not for his fragility on the hard court, he might have many more. And Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam titles would not have been this far!

At a mere age of 8, Nadal had defeated all the big boys to win Under-12 regional tennis championship and not much later at the age of 15, he was a pro and had reached the boys' semifinal at Wimbledon.

But his age of reckoning came at 17 when a then-ranked No.34 Rafael Nadal beat world No.1 Roger Federer in the third round of Miami Masters in just the first match between the two. And there started a rivalry that has defined this era of tennis.

Federer's softness to Nadal's power. Federer's gliding backhand to Nadal's boulder-like forehand. Federer's right hand to Nadal's left hand, they have been the two sides of a single coin - one that has lifted tennis for the world.

It was Uncle Toni who pushed Nadal to be left-handed when the little Mallorcan boy used to play forehand shots with both hands. Come to think of it, the world would have been so different if not for the genius of Nadal's left hand.

Nadal and Federer have also given the world one of the greatest sporting contests - a four hour 48 minute Wimbledon final in 2008 that the Spaniard won. Nadal and Federer in their whites on the green grass of All England Club is one of the most cherished duels in the sport of tennis.


Nadal is known for his affinity to football. He is regularly seen at Real Madrid games and has excellent ties with the club's president Florentino Perez. In fact, it is a widely known that Nadal played a part in Real Madrid signing Asensio.

However, a lesser known fact is that his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal was one of the rivals. Miguel Angel was nicknamed the The Beast of Barcelona for his tremendous physicality and Nadal was even seen in the arms of the beast once.

Rafael Nadal is a "mad PlayStation fan and he takes it all around the world," commentator and renowned tennis coach Roger Rasheed had said in 2017. He has previously even spoken of his FIFA battles with fellow tennis star Andy Murray and Real Madrid being his favorite football team.

Nadal is also widely known for his idiosyncrasies on the tennis court. Walking on court with a single racket in hand, placing all of his water bottles in a particular order and avoiding stepping on court lines are some of his habits that can never go unnoticed.

According to his 2011 autobiography Rafa, Nadal always takes a bath with "freezing cold water" before every match. Another match ritual or a habit that somewhat handles his injury-prone body.

14 years ago, at the age of 19, Nadal had debuted at French Open and had won his first Gram Slam title.

Now at the age of 33, he is going for his 12th - a feat that will only grow his already-existing legend.

| Edited by: Abreshmina Sayeed Quadri
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