It's been nearly seven months since tennis fans saw Rafael Nadal play a meaningful match.
The 26-year-old Spanish star has been recovering from a knee injury and a recent stomach virus, but now he's set to return to the court. With Nadal on his way back, it's time we look back on what tennis has missed during his absence.
Here we'll break down what fans love most about Rafa.
It doesn't matter if Rafa is the No. 1-ranked player on the planet or coming into a tournament as the No. 1 seed; he always seems to visualize himself as the underdog.
From his rugged style of play to his emotional reactions on the court, Nadal plays every point as if he has something to prove. His overall game is reflective of an underdog's. He seems to scratch and claw for points. He isn't always the most precise player, but he won't be outworked.
It's the underdog mentality that Nadal adopts during each and every match that makes fans want to cheer for him.
Few players in the world can maintain the level of intensity that Nadal does over the course of a match.
Whether he's running sprints in the locker room before the match or on his knees pounding his fists after a crucial break point, Nadal is always playing to win. And fans love that about him.
Nadal isn't afraid to show emotion on the court either, allowing the crowd to relate to him and see him as human rather than an elite tennis superstar. He doesn't destroy racquets or rip apart officials, but he shouts, pumps his fists and fires himself and the fans up when his game needs a spark.
From the way he carries himself to his overall style of play, Rafa Nadal is unique, and tennis fans have taken notice. The Spanish star has been known to rock some bright colors and was even a fan of capri pants earlier in his career.
But beyond Rafa's attire, it is the defensive, gritty style of play which he brings to the table that makes him a fan favorite for many.
He'll slide on the clay, he'll chase down potential winners on the hard court and he'll lay out for a ball at Wimbledon. Nadal's disregard for his body and his physical style has made him into an 11-time Grand Slam champion and is the reason why he's missed so much tennis recently.
But it's also what tennis fans love most about him.
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