Career Projection Series: Rafael Nadal

Michael LanichCorrespondent IApril 27, 2009

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 19:  Rafael Nadal (l) of Spain holds the winners trophy alongside Prince Albert II of Monaco (r) after his 6-3,2-6,6-1 victory in the final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day seven of the ATP Masters Series at the Monte Carlo Country Club on April 19, 2009 in Monte Carlo,Monaco.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Given the interesting state of men's tennis these days, I thought it would be interestinig to take stock of the top players careers, where they will go from here, and ultimately where they will stand at the end of their careers.  This is part one of a four part series.

Rafael Nadal burst onto the scene four years ago around this time of the year, when he captured Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome before heading to Roland Garros as a surprise favorite, and eventually defeating Mariano Puerta in the Roland Garros Final.

Since that fateful summer, Nadal has turned himself from an almost pure clay court behemoth, into an all court wizard.  With a ferocious game comprised of heavily top-spun forehands, wicked backhands, and tenacious speed, he slowly, yet sure chased down Roger Federer's number one position for nearly three years before taking him down in a Wimbledon final that could only be called "epic" and almost surely annointing himself the new king of tennis.

His rivalry with Roger Federer is now considered by many, the best the game has seen certainly since Borg and McEnroe, and maybe the best, period.  While it is now lopsided in favor of nadal due to so many clay court matches, it has provided some of the best tennis this decade.

This past February, Nadal managed to defeat Roger in yet another excellent match at the Australian Open, thus securing his first major on hard courts and showing finally, that he is a master of all surfaces.  While Nadal will never be the best on hard courts, with another win against Andy Murray at Indian Wells, he is at least a threat.  In fact, with his Indian Wells win earlier this year, he has won six total hard court master's series titles to go with his single hard court slam.

Currently on another clay court streak as we head towards Roland Garros where yet again he will be the favorite, we should wonder where he will go from here.  While Federer will always remain a threat in the rear-view mirror, and Murray and Novak Djokovic are heavy in pursuit, at this moment, Nadal is undoubtedly without peer for the foreseeable future.

My prediction for this year is that Nadal will win Roland Garros yet again, and follow that up with another win at Wimbledon against Novak Djokovic in the final, but will again miss out on the U.S. Open crown before getting it next year.

Nadal's career, like his playing style will be fierce, but quick.  I think that at twenty-seven, Nadal will have just played the last of his best tennis and will retire either that year, or the next year.

However, he will have 13 grand slams to his name.  Most of them will be Roland Garros titles, but they will break down as:

72 career titles

7 Roland Garros Titles

3 Wimbledon Titles

2 Australian Open Titles

1 U.S. Open Titles

1 Gold Olympic Medal

1 Silver Olympic Medal

With this resume, Rafael Nadal will go down as one of the most decorated tennis players of all time.  But maybe his greatest accomplishment will be proving his critics wrong.  All who said he would amount to little more than a clay court demon will, in the end, have to admit his greatness.  Not only that but he will also go down, along with Federer as one of the most celebrated and popular champions in history.

Within a few days I will give my career analysis and career projection for Roger Federer.  Thanks Everyone.