What did the world look like the last time Rafael Nadal wasn't in top 10 ft. Pete Sampras leading Slam race, Martina Navratilova still winning Majors
By the time Rafael Nadal broke into the top 10 of the ATP rankings for the first time on 25 April 2005, he had only one big title in his cabinet — the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters. After almost 18 years, his scarcely believable reign came to an end today, 20 March 2023.
The Spaniard holds 36 Masters 1000s titles and 22 Grand Slams today, with plenty still left in his tank. He created a record for the highest number of consecutive weeks in the top 10 among men — 912 (22 weeks lost due to the rankings being frozen in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic). The next on the list is Jimmy Connors at 789 weeks, followed by Roger Federer's 742, and Ivan Lendl's 619.
The only player ahead of all the men is Martina Navratilova, who spent 1,000 straight weeks in the top 10. So how and where were some of the biggest names in tennis when Nadal entered the ATP top 10 for the first time in his career in 2005?
The record for the highest number of men's singles Grand Slam titles at the time belonged to Pete Sampras (14). Federer, who retired with 20 Majors last year, had only four, while Novak Djokovic had none and had appeared in just one Grand Slam tournament. The Spaniard himself was yet to win his first Major, which came at the 2005 French Open.
Serena Williams, who went on to rack up 23 Grand Slam titles to her name — the most by any player, man or woman, in the Open Era — had only won seven at the time. The American retired last year at the US Open with one final flurry in front of her home fans, reaching the third round.
Martina Navratilova, meanwhile, was yet to hang up her racquet and hadn't even won her final Grand Slam at that point. The American icon, who racked up a combined 59 Majors (18 in singles, 31 in women's doubles, 10 in mixed doubles) won the US Open for the third time in mixed doubles in 2006, partnering with compatriot Bob Bryan.
As far as today's upcoming stars are concerned, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek was about to turn four and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu was two years old. World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune were just days away from turning two, while Coco Gauff was one. Czech Republic's Linda Fruhvirtova, who won her maiden WTA title at the Chennai Open last year, wasn't even born.
YouTube and Facebook were new, and Twitter, Instagram, and smartphones were yet to come into existence.
Nadal, who stayed at No. 1 for 209 weeks, is now placed in 13th position and is gearing up for his second entry into the top 10 as he recovers from a hip injury. He has targeted the 2023 Monte Carlo Masters for his comeback on the tour.
Casper Ruud backs Rafael Nadal to win 15th French Open title
Rafael Nadal defeated Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the final of the 2022 French Open to lift his 14th title in Paris. Although the Spaniard has struggled with multiple injuries and form since then, Ruud believes that the 22-time Grand Slam champion can emerge victorious again this year.
"I think we wouldn't be surprised if Rafa came up with some ridiculous level once again," Ruud said. "The only thing that is probably on his mind these days is just to be fit, be healthy, and be ready for Roland-Garros."
The 36-year-old is recovering from a hip injury that he picked up at the 2023 Australian Open, which forced him to miss the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open, among others.
What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here