Rafael Nadal: Why Rafa's Legacy is Complete Regardless of US Open Fate
Isn't crazy how we can declare a 25 year old's tennis legacy complete? Few 25 year olds have complete anything of note, much less a legacy, but in the case of Rafael Nadal, it's completely true. Regardless of how he performs at the U.S. Open, his mark on tennis has been established.
French Open Dominance
Rafael Nadal's meteoric rise began on his 19th birthday when he defeated then No. 1 Roger Federer in the semifinals of the 2005 French Open. He won the tournament two days later and has furthermore won six of the last seven French Opens. It was on the clay courts of Roland Garros where Nadal made a name for himself as an international tennis contender.
His all-out style of play is perfect on clay, let him slide as he hits and work his tremendous spin on the ball. He is one of the greatest clay court players in history, but that title doesn't lend itself to a cemented legacy all alone.
Development of Overall Game
Considered by some (me) to be a clay court specialist when he first cracked into the world rankings, Nadal proved critics dead wrong by developing his tennis game to work on any surface anywhere.
He plays a baseline game and incorporates a heavy use of topspin. His tenacious court coverage makes him a brilliant defender, often turning losing volleys into winners. Indeed, Nadal's raw talent is dwarfed only by his outstanding effort.
Once considered a weakness in his game, Nadal altered his serve motion before the 2010 season. This helped his serve hit 135 miles per hour and allowed him to win more free points on aces. His willingness to make adjustments in his game is a huge aspect of his legacy.
Nothing garners more attention that a great rivalry, and there is hardly a better one in sports than the one between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. In their first ever meeting in 2004, the 17 year old Nadal shocked the world when he beat No. 1 Federer. He won in straight sets and ousted Federer in just the third round of the Miami Masters.
The two have faced off in 19 tournament finals, including a record eight Grand Slam finals. From 2006 to 2008, Federer and Nadal met each other in every French Open and Wimbledon final. The 2008 Wimbledon final has been lauded by many tennis analysts as one of the greatest matches ever--Nadal won.
While Federer is considered one of the greatest players of all-time, it is Nadal who owns this rivalry with a 17-8 record. The notoriety of this rivalry paired with Nadal's ownership of the win-loss record is another reason his legacy is already complete.