Any conversation on the game’s most impressive achievements will inevitably reference La Decima – Rafael Nadal’s epic 10 titles at Roland Garros. Winning the first of those record-breaking titles in 2005 and most recently in 2017, the Spaniard is one of just eight men to win every Grand Slam at least once. Nadal first became world No.1 in 2008 – a position he’s held for more than 100 weeks – and returned to the top spot in August. He won his third US Open crown in New York, defeating Kevin Anderson to capture a 16th major.
Nadal’s renowned competitive weapons are enhanced by the strong personal qualities that were instilled as a child. Coached by his uncle Toni since the age of four, the popular champion now promotes values including humility, respect and hard work at the Rafa Nadal Academy; the state-of-the-art facility, combining tennis and education, opened near his Majorca home in December 2016.
After finishing an injury-marred 2016 at world No.9, his lowest year-end ranking in over a decade, Nadal has returned to inspired best form at age 31. Underlining his status as the greatest claycourt competitor of all time, Rafa won four of five events he contested on European clay. There were also finals finishes at the Australian Open and Miami, sparking a glorious revival of his long-held rivalry with Roger Federer. Nadal has won 23 of 37 matches against the Swiss superstar – that impressive achievement complemented by the sporting nature of their high-stakes contests.
Winner: US Open, Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Barcelona
Final: Australian Open, Miami, Acapulco
QF: Rome, Brisbane.