Nadal: Grand Slam warrior who reached for the stars with his feet on the ground
To death and taxes, which are just two certainties in life, a third can be added - Rafael Nadal, who wins the French Open.
The Spaniard secured a 13th title at Roland Garros on Sunday with a crushing victory over Novak Djokovic, which corresponds to Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slams.
"Today you showed why you are the king of clay," said Djokovic, who was beaten by Nadal for the third time in a Roland Garros final.
Nadal now has 100 match wins on the famous red brick of Paris against only two defeats in 15 years. He had called this year's belated tournament his "toughest of all time" but secured the title without losing a set.
"There is nobody who plays close to Rafa," said Federer after a one-sided semi-final defeat at Roland Garros in 2019.
"I don't even know who to look for to practice with someone who plays like him."
However, you will never hear Nadal indulging in similar self-praise.
Just as happy as fishing or playing golf on Mallorca, Nadal is ruthless but disarmingly modest on the tennis court.
"I have doubts every day, but that's a good thing because I have to work harder," said Nadal, whose career has been constantly beset by knee and wrist injuries.
"Life is never clear. When you have no doubts, you are very arrogant. I am not an arrogant person."
It is this direct humility that makes Nadal his legion of fans, as well as his respect for opponents.
He applauds every defeated opponent at every tournament off the field.
- Injury misery -
His peculiarities are just as appealing to his followers.
His plucking the back of his shorts and wiping his forehead in line with his obsessive devotion to orienting his water bottles with the labels facing out are part of Nadal's DNA.
The victory on Sunday equated Nadal with Federer, who at 39 is more than four years older.
"It's not about equating Roger with 20, for me it's just a Roland Garros win today," said Nadal.
"Roland Garros means everything to me. I have spent most of the important moments of my tennis career here."
His Grand Slam resume includes 13 French Open, four US Open titles, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.
His last triumph over Federer at Wimbledon in 2008 is generally considered to be the greatest final of all time in the majors.
He has 86 career titles, 60 of which were on the sand. In addition to his 20 majors, he has a record of 35 Masters.
Together with Federer and Djokovic, the other member of tennis '' Big Three '', Nadal comfortably exceeded the $ 100 million prize money limit.
Tennis was good for Nadal, but it was as influential as it was a key factor in the growth of the sport.
At eight he won a regional crown under 12 and at 12 he had won Spanish and European junior titles in the age group.
He had turned professional by the age of 15 and won his first game against Federer two years later.
At the age of 19, he won the 2005 French Open on his debut.
Nadal has Wimbledon crowns in 2008 and 2010, an Australian Open title in 2009, and finished the Career Grand Slam in 2010 by defeating Djokovic in the US Open final, making it the youngest in the Open- Era that concluded the career sweep with four events.
Nadal added another US Open crown in 2013 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, a third in 2017, and another last year.
Only Nadal and Andre Agassi can say they have a career grand slam and a gold medal for men's Olympic singles after Nadal won his in Beijing in 2008.
He has also led Spain to five Davis Cups.
Knee and wrist injuries have taken a toll over the course of his career and cost him nine slam appearances.
After failing to even reach a slam semi-finals in 2015 and 2016, some suspected his greatest moments were behind him.
But Nadal reached the final of the Australian Open 2017 and lost to Federer. In June of this year he won the 10th French Open record crown, setting the stage for another title run in the Flushing Meadows a fortnight at the US Open in September.
Only Nadal, Pete Sampras and Ken Rosewall managed to win Grand Slam titles in their teens, 20s and 30s.
"If I win here another time, I can't even say it's a dream. It's out of my mind," said Nadal.
bur-dj / mw
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