Top 10 reactions of players who couldn't handle Rafael Nadal's game
Rafael Nadal's dominance over his opponents has been staggering to witness. His fighting spirit has seen him win impossible points and turn seemingly-lost causes around. There have been times when the Spaniard has won with relative ease and others where he has had to dig deep and find that extra gear in order to succeed.
Early on in his career, Nadal was lightning quick, getting to shots that would've been winners against anyone else. While injuries and age have slowed him down a tick, his court coverage remains one of his greatest assets.
While fans continue to enjoy watching Nadal showcasing his skills on the court, players on the other side of the net often have a different reaction. They have expressed a myriad of feelings about being on the receiving end of the Spaniard's unrelenting dominance.
From frustration and annoyance to absolute awe, players have been taken on an emotional journey while competing against Nadal. Some of these reactions have become iconic and deserve a place in tennis' Hall of Fame. Here's a list of the greatest reactions from players who simply couldn't handle Rafael Nadal's brilliance:
#10 "This guy is going to win Roland Garros 40 years in a row" - Nicolas Almagro, 2008 French Open
Almagro was having a tough time going toe-to-toe with Nadal. After losing the first set and going 4-1 down in the second, he finally lost his cool and made a bizarre prediction.
"This guy is going to win Roland Garros 40 years in a row. He will be 65 years old and will continue to win Roland Garros," a perplexed Almagro exclaimed.
Almgaro eventually lost 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 and his mini rant has become somewhat prophetic. While Nadal certainly hasn't won the French Open 40 times in a row, 13 titles in Paris isn't too bad. Whether he'll still be competing at the age of 65 is a different matter, but given his dominance at Roland Garros, one shouldn't rule out the possibility.
#9 Stan Wawrinka munches on a tennis ball, 2017 French Open
Stan Wawrinka has found considerable success on clay, winning the 2015 French Open and the 2014 Monte-Carlo Masters. He was also a finalist at the Rome and Madrid Masters in 2008 and 2013. So when the Swiss took on Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Roland Garros final, he was expected to make the match fairly competitive.
Nadal had other plans though and was dialed in from the get-go. Two years had gone by without him winning a title at the French Open. He was hungry to lift the trophy this time around and it was evident.
Wawrinka lost the first set and was down 30-0 in his opening service game of the second. After losing another point to go down triple break point, he reacted by shoving the ball into his mouth.
Nadal defeated Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to win the the French Open for the 10th time.
#8 Rafael Nadal stuns Juan Martin del Potro with a passing shot, 2011 Davis Cup
The atmosphere during the Davis Cup is always electric, with players having to contend with the extra pressure of performing for their countries. During the 2011 Davis Cup clash between Spain and Argentina, Rafael Nadal hit a magnificent passing shot that left Juan Martin del Potro looking on in disbelief.
Del Potro had Nadal on the backfoot throughout the point, so he couldn't believe it when the Spaniard's forehand found the line.
#7 Benoit Paire yells in exasperation, 2013 Madrid Open
2013 was one of the best seasons of Rafael Nadal's career. He won 10 titles, including two Grand Slams, with a 75-7 record for the year. Benoit Paire was one of the many players left feeling helpless that year against the Spaniard.
The two met in the second round of the 2013 Madrid Open. After dropping the opening set, Paire had a break point on Nadal's serve to take a 3-1 lead.
Paire thought he had his opponent on the ropes with a smash, but Nadal somehow managed to get the ball back, much to the Frenchman's disbelief. He was left holding his head in his hands and let out a scream of frustration, eventually losing the match 6-3, 6-4.
#6 Victor Hanescu left gasping for breath, 2010 Rome Masters
This point perfectly encapsulates Rafael Nadal's court coverage and retrieval skills. Victor Hanescu brought the Spaniard up to the net with a drop shot in their third-round clash in Rome before sending him running back to the baseline with a lob.
Nadal then hit an over-the-shoulder shot to stay in the rally. After another couple of shots, Hanescu produced yet another drop shot, but the Spaniard got to it in a flash and hit a drop volley, surprising his opponent.
Hanescu was able to send it back over the net, but Nadal had an open court to hit a winner. The Romanian was left gasping for breath and had to sit down for a moment to collect himself.
#5 Fernando Verdasco throws his racquet in disappointment, 2010 US Open
While Rafael Nadal leads Fernando Verdasco 17-3 in the head-to-head, the two have engaged in plenty of memorable matches over the years.
While their 2010 US Open quarterfinal pales in comparison to their classic 2009 Australian Open semi-final showdown, it was still a fun contest. Towards a point at the end of the third set, Verdasco did well to stay in the rally, forcing Nadal to hit a backhand while on the stretch.
Verdasco should've won the point with the next shot. Unfortunately, he hit the ball directly into the net, causing him to throw his racquet in annoyance.
#4 Novak Djokovic has no choice but to applaud an incredible tweener from Rafael Nadal, 2011 Madrid Open
2011 was an incredible season for Novak Djokovic as he went on a rampage, winning almost tournament he played. However, it wasn't easy with his chief rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer testing him every step of the way.
When he met the Spaniard in the final of the 2011 Madrid Open, the duo engaged in a thrilling battle for the title. After a few baseline exchanges during a point at the start of the second set, Nadal rushed into the net but a beautiful lob from Djokovic sent him scurrying back.
The Serb would've won the point with that shot against any other player. But Nadal hit a tweener which ended up landing right on the line. The crowd roared in approval, and Djokovic had to applaud his opponent's brilliance as well.
#3 Marat Safin throws his racquet into the net in frustration, 2007 Canadian Masters
When Rafael Nadal and Marat Safin first met in 2007 at the Canadian Masters, their careers were headed in opposite directions. Safin, a former World No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, was in decline, while the Spaniard was the second-best player in the world behind Roger Federer.
The first set was fairly competitive, but eventually went in favor of Nadal. The Spaniard quickly went up a break at the start of the second set and when Safin was flummoxed by yet another passing shot, he threw his racquet into the net in frustration.
Safin lost the match 7-6(4), 6-0 and lost his next meeting against Nadal in straight sets as well.
#2 Gael Monfils bows down to Rafael Nadal, 2018 Madrid Open
Gael Monfils remains one of the best athletes on tour and his style of play results in plenty of his shots making the highlights reel. While he has struggled to get wins against Rafael Nadal, he has tested the former World No. 1 from time to time.
When the duo met in the second round of the 2018 Madrid Open, Nadal dominated proceedings for the better part of the match. At 6-3, 5-1, Monfils was serving to stay in the match. The Frenchman approached the net sensing an opportunity, but Nadal was there in a flash.
When Monfils hit a crosscourt forehand that barely clipped the line, Nadal managed to get to the shot and hit it back while on the stretch to win the point. Monfils was left applauding, and bowed down to show his admiration for the Spaniard.
#1 Novak Djokovic pulls down his shorts after losing a crucial point, 2009 Davis Cup
Rafael Nadal's fashion sense has changed frequently over the years. Early on in his career, he became well-known for wearing sleeveless tops and capri shorts.
The Spaniard's record on clay in the mid-to-late 2000s was impeccable and his dominance on the surface was unmatched. So when Nadal faced off against Novak Djokovic during their Davis Cup tie in 2009, the Serb was visibly frustrated at times. The match was played on clay and going up against Nadal on the red dirt was an incredibly difficult task.
After losing the first couple of sets, Djokovic had a break opportunity early on in the third. However, Nadal managed to fend off that break point, prompting the Serb to pull down his pants in frustration.
Perhaps Djokovic thought that swapping shorts with Nadal might make him more competitive. It was a hilarious moment and humor is certainly needed when going up against the King of Clay.