3 milestones Rafael Nadal could achieve in 2020

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is the ultimate warrior of tennis. Regardless of the opponent, match or tournament, the Spaniard plays every point of a match as if it is his last.

Despite not possessing the most brutal of serves, the Spaniard's relentless baseline game has floored many a fine opponent. He announced his arrival on the tennis scene when he stunned a then-dominant Roger Federer in straight sets at the 2004 Miami Masters. A year later, at the same tournament, the Spaniard was two points away from beating Federer in the final before the Swiss maestro fought back to win in five.

One of two players to have beaten Federer 10 times in Grand Slam matches (the other being Novak Djokovic), Nadal's first Major meeting with the Swiss superstar came in the semifinal at 2005 Roland Garros. Riding a 17-match win streak on the surface, the 19-year-old birthday boy beat Federer in four sets before defeating Mariano Puerta in an all-lefty final.

In the process, Nadal became the fourth-youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam title, behind Michael Chang (1989 French Open), Mats Wilander (1982 French Open), Boris Becker (1985 Wimbledon) and Bjorn Borg (1974 French Open). He also became the only player apart from Wilander to win the French Open on his tournament debut.

The Spaniard has since won the claycourt Major on a staggering 12 occasions, doing so most recently this year.

Biding his time behind a dominant World No. 1 Federer, Nadal spent 160 consecutive weeks at No. 2. During this period Nadal beat the Swiss legend in three consecutive French Open finals (2006-08), twice denying him a shot at a calendar year Grand Slam, before ending Federer's five-year reign at Wimbledon in an all-time classic in 2008.

That win laid the platform for Nadal to become the first Spanish player to become World No. 1; he achieved the milestone on 18 August 2008.

Nadal sealed his fifth year-end No. 1 ranking at the 2019 ATP Finals and recently celebrated his 200th week at No. 1, becoming only the sixth player in the Open Era to do so.

Nadal became the first player to win a tournament 10 times, when he beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas in the Monte Carlo final. He then completed a "La Decima" at Barcelona and Roland Garros too.

2019 saw Nadal take the outright lead in the Masters 1000 titles leaderboard, after a win over Djokovic in the Rome final. He then won his 35th title in the tournament category at Montreal, which also saw Nadal successfully defending a hardcourt title for the very first time in his career.

After being ousted in the group-stage at the season-ending ATP Finals despite winning two of his three group-stage matches, Nadal won five singles and three doubles matches at the revamped Davis Cup finals in Madrid to lead Spain to victory.

He's not done yet though, and still seems hungry for more. So let us take a look at three more milestones Nadal could achieve in the 2020 season.

#1 First player in the Open Era to win all 4 Grand Slam tournaments multiple times

Rafael Nadal won his lone title at the Australian Open in 2009
Rafael Nadal won his lone title at the Australian Open in 2009

Each of the Big 3 members - Djokovic, Federer and Nadal - arrive in 2019 with the possibility of becoming the first player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on multiple occasions. But it is Nadal who gets the first tilt at history, at the Australian Open, where he has endured four final defeats following his lone title in 2009.

Nadal's first opportunity at accomplishing the feat came in 2012 when he led two-time defending champion Djokovic in the fifth set. But he eventually finished second-best in the longest men's singles final of the Open Era.

An injured Nadal took a set off Stan Wawrinka before falling in a four-set final in 2014. Playing his fourth final at the Australian Open in 2017, Nadal looked set to continue his Grand Slam dominance over Federer when he led the Swiss maestro 3-1 in the fifth. But he then lost five games in a row to squander the opportunity yet again.

Two years later, the Spaniard reached his fifth final in Melbourne where he endured his first straight sets defeat, as Djokovic became the first seven-time winner Down Under.

Having won the 2019 US Open and ended the season with a seven-match win streak on hardcourt, Nadal would be a formidable proposition at the 2020 Australian Open. A title run there would make him the first player in the Open Era to win each of the four Majors on multiple occasions.

#2 1000 singles match wins

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

After sealing his fifth year-end World No. 1 ranking at the ATP Finals, Nadal ended the 2019 season on a seven-match winning streak (two matches at the ATP Finals and five at the Davis Cup). That run took his career tally to 977 singles wins, against just 197 losses.

If the Spaniard stays healthy, the clay-court swing of the 2020 season could see Nadal become the fourth player to reach the milestone of 1,000 singles match wins. Jimmy Connors (1274), Roger Federer (1237), Ivan Lendl (1068) and Guillermo Vilas (1049) are the only players ahead of Nadal in the all-time singles match wins list.

Nadal needs 23 wins to get to the landmark, and it'll take a brave man to bet against him getting there in the first half of the 2020 season.

#3 First male tennis player to win 3 Olympic gold medals

Nadal won the 2016 Rio Olympics doubles gold medal, with compatriot Marc Lopez
Nadal won the 2016 Rio Olympics doubles gold medal, with compatriot Marc Lopez

In his first tournament as the world's top-ranked player, Nadal beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in the final to win the singles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Eight years later, at the Rio Olympics, Nadal fell to Juan Martin del Potro in a bruising singles semifinal. But he combined brilliantly with compatriot Marc Lopez to win the doubles gold medal for Spain.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a run to the title in either singles or doubles would see Nadal become the first male tennis player to win three Olympic gold medals.

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