Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal is celebrating his 34th birthday on Wednesday, June 3. The current world number 2 has been at the top of his game since over a decade now. He's a part of the Big Three, along with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, which has dominated the sport for the longest time.
The Spaniard has played 27 Grand Slams finals and has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles. He is only second to Federer in the all-time list of both the records with the Swiss winning 20 Grand Slam singles.
Despite being known as essentially a clay-couter, Nadal has successfully won titles on all courts - hard, grass and clay. Even as he has proved himself on all courts, he is undoubtedly the king of clay court - one that he has ruled since 2005.
The world number 2 is also the youngest player in open era to complete the Career Grand Slam and the Career Golden Slam. He won the four majors and the Olympic title when he was just 24 years and 3 months old. He has won French Open title for a record twelve times, US Open titles four times, Wimbledon twice and one Australian Open title.
The 'King of Clay' has won at least one Grand Slam title for 10 consecutive years, starting from 2005 to 2014. Interestingly, he also holds the record for the most titles at three different ATP Tour levels. These include ATP500 (Barcelona-11), Masters 1000 (Monte Carlo-11) and Grand Slams (French Open-12).
Here is a look at Nadal's highlight from last year:
French Open 2019
This was Nadal's 12th Roland Garros title and he won it after struggling through his emotions and mentality in the past few months.
Nadal had lost the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic, taking just eight games from the Serb. He was then ousted in the second round by an inspired Nick Kyrgios after which his much-awaited Indian Wells semi-finals against Federer was scrapped due to his injury withdrawal.
Since his Indian Wells injury, he did not play a single game as he continued his rehabilitation. His return to the clay court season also led to semi-final losses at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.
Considering his struggles, his French Open win against Dominic Thiem was monumental. For the second year running, he beat the Austrian to lift the title in Paris.
After the win, Nadal admitted to mental struggle ahead of the Grand Slam event. "Mentally, I lost a little bit of that energy, because I had too many issues in a row. It is tough when you receive one after another, and then sometimes you are groggy," he said.
"In Barcelona, I was able to stay alone for a couple of hours in the room and think about what's going on, what I need to do.
"One possibility was to stop for a while and recover my body. And the other was change drastically my attitude and my mentality to play the next couple of weeks.
"Thinking a lot, finally I think I was able to change and was able to fight back for every small improvement that I was able to make that happen."
US Open 2019
It was an epic final that swung like a seesaw between Nadal and Russian Daniil Medvedev. Nadal had not been recognised much for his hard court prowess even though he had won one Australian Open title and three US Open titles prior to 2019.
Hence, his win last year in New York brought him to tears.
Nadal and Medvedev played an excruciating final that the Spaniard take the first two sets. However, the Russian hit back with immense vigour and took the third and fourth sets to set up a thrilling finale.
At one point in the final set, it looked like Medvedev would win his first Grand Slam title but the then 33-year-old fought hard to eventually bag the prize.
In the presentation, the US Open played a slide of his brilliant moments on the hard court of New York and Nadal had a smile on his face and tears in his eyes as he soaked in the applause.