Rafael Nadal plays his first match at the World Tour Finals today versus Andy Roddick, where he will bid to become just the second male tennis player since the Open Era to complete the Career Super Slam.
Surprisingly, the only tennis player who has ever accomplished this rare feat is someone who supposedly hated tennis.
For a person who has won all four Grand Slams, an Olympic singles gold medal, the Davis Cup and the season-ending championships, it is hard to find the exact moment where he despised his sport with a “secret passion.”
Since 1999, when Agassi finally added his final piece to the puzzle with his French Open victory, he has been the only player to have won everything that matters in the game.
Rafael Nadal will now try to emulate the former tennis great by adding the WTF title to his résumé.
However, there is a great difference in how Agassi achieved the Career Super Slam and how Nadal may achieve his: The former's record was more of a slow process as the latter's seems to be in a hurry.
The Americans first trophy actually came at the season-ending championships in 1990. Through the next nine years, he managed to capture Wimbledon in 1992, the US Open in 1994, the Australian Open in 1995, the Olympic Gold in 1996 and finally Roland Garros in 1999.
Nadal, on the other hand, captured all but one of the big trophies in a span of just five years. The French Open in 2005, Wimbledon and an Olympic Gold in 2008, the Australian Open in 2009 and the US Open in 2010. If the Spaniard wins the WTF this year, he will better Agassi’s record by a colossal four years.
This is not the only difference the two legends have though. Maybe the greater difference they have is in their character: Agassi abhorred tennis, did not take it seriously at Nadal’s age and loved being in the spotlight; on the other hand, the Power House from Mallorca cannot get enough of tennis and it is his second love, trailing only his family. He loves competing and winning trophies and, maybe most crucial of all, he loves training and learning.
Obviously, as Nadal has also stated, winning this tournament will be one of his hardest exploits. The Energizer Bully has only won one indoor tournament in his career and that was way back in Madrid in 2005, from a staggering 43 career titles. This could be even harder for Nadal than conquering the US Open. Nevertheless, he managed to win there, where the New York cement supposedly hindered his game, so who would bet against him now?
His match tonight against another American Andy Roddick will be his first for a month. He will have to be fired up and ready to go from the off if he wants to win this tournament as much as he says he would.
Even if he will not be there, this Sunday digging his teeth into the trophy, it will still have been a magnificent year for the clay loving Spaniard: Winning three of the four slams and three consecutive Masters Titles on clay. And just think, this time last year we were thinking if Nadal would ever reach these heights again.
If he can stay healthy and keep his body in check, he will have plenty of years to come back and claim the only major title to have eluded him thus far.
Hopefully, he will complete the feat sooner rather than later, because if he waits too long, he will have another similarity with Andre Agassi: that of a bald head!