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Top 5 wins of Rafael Nadal's career

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 14:  Rafael Nadal of Spain bites the winners trophy after his win over Dominic Thiem of Austria in the final during day nine of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis at La Caja Magica on May 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Nadal won a record-extending fifth title at the Madrid Masters
Neelabhra Roy

Rafael Nadal won his fifth title at the Mutua Madrid Open this week, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final in straight sets to win his 30th Masters 1000 title, the 72nd of his career. The win took Nadal to World No.4, thus overtaking Roger Federer in the process.

Nadal will now play at the Rome Masters before making an attempt to complete his third La Decima of the year by winning a 10th French Open title. Over the years, Nadal has established himself as the greatest clay-court player in tennis history and one of the finest tennis players of all-time if not the greatest. However, the path was not easy for the Spaniard as he had to go through some grueling encounters against some pretty tough opponents. Nevertheless, Nadal’s game, his resilience, and his fighting spirit always took him past the finish line. Here are five of Nadal’s greatest wins of his career.

#5. 2009 Australian Open semi-final against Fernando Verdasco

Nadal and Verdasco played an epic semi-final at the 2009 Australian Open

Nadal was aiming to win his maiden Australian Open title in 2009 and was cruising through the initial phases of the tournament – where he did not drop a single set till the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals, Nadal was up against compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who would be playing his first Grand Slam semi-final after defeating two Top 5 players in his previous two matches in 4th seed Andy Murray and 2008 runner-up and 5th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.Both players began brilliantly with the first set going to a tiebreaker and surprisingly, Verdasco won it to take the lead in the match. However, Nadal rebounded well in the second set to win it 6-4. The third set was another nail-biting one and it was Nadal who put himself in the driver’s seat by edging out Verdasco in a tiebreak. However, the 14th seeded Spaniard was in no mood to throw in the towel and he staged a remarkable comeback by winning the fourth set in another tie-break to set up a fifth set to decide the fate of the match.Both players fought hard in the final set but it was Nadal’s sheer brilliance that outshone Verdasco’s resilience. Nadal was in his first ever Australian Open final after beating Verdasco in a match which lasted 5 hours and 14 minutes, thus becoming the longest match in Australian Open history at the time, bettering the 5 hour,11 minute landmark set in the third round of the 1991 Australian Open between Boris Becker and Italy’s Omar Camporese.

#4. 2005 Rome Masters final against Guillermo Coria, 2005

ROME - MAY 08:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning his match against Guillermo Coria of Argentina during the Final of ATP Telecom Italia Tennis Masters at the Foro Italico on May 8, 2005 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Nadal won an epic battle against Guillermo Coria to win the 2005 Rome Masters

After losing his first ever Masters 1000 final to Roger Federer at Miami in 2005, Nadal bounced back in the clay-court season by winning his first Masters 1000 title at Monte-Carlo and then winning the Barcelona Open.

Three weeks after his win at Barcelona, Nadal competed at the Rome Masters where he reached his third successive Masters 1000 final of the year which would be a rematch of the Monte Carlo Masters final against 2004 French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria.Nadal drew first blood by taking the first set 6-4 before Coria bounced back to take the second set 6-3. Nadal restored the lead by taking the third set 6-3 but Coria was resilient and he once again levelled the match by taking the fourth set 6-4.The final set turned out to be a very exciting one as neither players were backing down with the set going to a tiebreak. In a close tiebreak, Nadal edged out the Argentine 8-6 to win the second Masters 1000 title of his career.

#3. 2009 Madrid Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic

Nadal and Djokovic played the best match of the 2009 Madrid Masters

After winning the Madrid Masters in 2005, Nadal did not even reach the final in the following three years. In 2009, Nadal was having a good tournament, not dropping a single set till the quarter-finals. After beating Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals, Nadal was now up against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.Djokovic drew first blood by winning the first set convincingly by the margin of 6-3. In the second set, Nadal saved two break points while serving at 4-4 and eventually took the set in a tiebreak to level the match. The third set was another exciting one as both players fought hard with the set going to a tiebreak. During the tiebreak, Nadal saved three match points before edging out Djokovic 11-9 to take his clay-court winning streak to 33.

The match lasted 4 hours and three minutes, thus being the longest three-set tennis match in Men’s tennis history before being overtaken at the semi-finals of the 2012 London Olympics between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro.

However, Nadal would go on to lose the final against Roger Federer in straight sets.

#2. 2009 Australian Open final against Roger Federer

Nadal won his first Australian Open title after beating Federer in a thrilling final

When Federer won the 2008 US Open, he was only one Grand Slam short of Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams. Nadal had a brilliant 2008 where he won the French Open and Wimbledon titles, became the World No. 1 and won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Both reached the final of the 2009 Australian Open, which would be the first final between Federer and Nadal in Melbourne.

While Federer had come into the final on the back a comfortable straight set victory over Andy Roddick in the semi-finals, Nadal had to overcome compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a gruelling five-setter to reach his first Australian Open final.

The Swiss did not begin the match well as a double fault coupled with a few unforced errors gifted Nadal an early break in the very first game but he responded by breaking the Spaniard in the next game. Federer once again broke Nadal to lead 4-2 before the latter bounced back to level the scores at 5-5. Nadal then broke Federer for a third time to take the set 7-5.The second set once again saw Nadal breaking early but Federer came back strong and broke him twice before taking the set 6-3 to level the match. The third set saw both players hold their serve as the set went to a tiebreak, which was won by Nadal 7-3. However, the Swiss did not back down and came back strong to take the fourth set 6-3 and the match to a fifth set.

The final set saw the gifted right-hander display signs of exhaustion as a few backhand errors handed Nadal an early break and he was soon trailing 2-5. The southpaw eventually broke his serve for a second time in the set to claim his first Australian Open title.

What followed the match was one of the most heartwarming moments in tennis history as Federer broke down during his runner-up speech only for Rafa to console him.

#1. 2008 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer

The 2008 Wimbledon final is considered to be the greatest Grand Slam final ever

After reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open and winning a fourth consecutive French Open title, Rafael Nadal was eyeing the Wimbledon title and the World No. 1 ranking whereas Federer wanted to become the first man to win six consecutive Wimbledon titles.

Both players had an easy passage to the final with Nadal dropping only one set en route and Federer none The start of the final was delayed by around 35 minutes due to rain but once it started, the Spaniard looked to be in control of the match as he won the first two sets, 6-4 each time. Federer bounced back in the third set to lead 5-4 before rain stopped play for 80 minutes.

After play resumed, the third set went the distance and Federer held his nerve to take the tiebreak before saving two championship points to take the fourth set in another tiebreak. Rain once again intervened and delayed the match even further with murmurs of resuming play only the next day getting louder.

However, play resumed soon enough and in the final set, Federer was only two points away from a sixth Wimbledon title but Nadal held his nerve and serve. The Spaniard eventually ended Federer’s reign by taking the final set 9-7, thus ending the Swiss maestro’s 41-match unbeaten streak at Wimbledon and handing him his first Wimbledon defeat since Mario Ancic in 2002.

The match is still the longest Wimbledon final ever at 4 hours and 48 minutes and was the longest Grand Slam final before the 2012 Australian Open final. The 2008 Wimbledon final is regarded by many to be the greatest Wimbledon final of all time.

Edited by Staff Editor

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