July 24, 2024
Rafael Nadal

In honor of Rafael Nadal’s appointment as a global brand ambassador for Infosys, the digital innovation partner of the ATP, ATPTour.com examines the transformation of Rafa’s playing style and highlights key statistics from his remarkable career.

Rafael Nadal exploded onto the global tennis scene in 2005, winning 11 ATP Tour tournaments, including five ATP Masters 1000 events and his maiden Roland Garros title. He started the year ranked No. 51 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and finished No. 2.
A star was born.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Nadal’s illustrious career identifies how champions evolve by continually adding to their game – and also changing the game along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning.

2005 Season (79-10)
The 18-year-old Spaniard got hot in April and May, going on a 17-match win streak to capture titles in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros. He would finish with 11 titles, representing the most prolific year of his career.

What powered this sudden rise to stardom? An insatiable appetite to devour return points. He won a staggering 45 per cent of all return points in 2005, which was the best of his career. His specific area of expertise was facing second serves, where he won 57 per cent of return points. That was a personal record he equaled in five other seasons.

Nadal made a seismic splash onto the tennis scene in 2005, but it was only beginning. He kept adding to his game season after season.

2010 Season (71-10)
Nadal has described this season as the best of his career, and the trophy haul is something to behold. Nadal owned the clay court season with titles in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros. He then backed up that dominant performance with victories at Wimbledon and the US Open.

It was Nadal’s serve that stood tall in this spectacular season. He saved 71 per cent of break points, which was the best in any season of his career. He also served fewer double faults (59) in any season (excluding 2023). Until 2010, he was a nightmare from the returning side of the equation. He evolved his game to a whole new level to dominate when serving as well.

Nadal also converted more break points (49 per cent – tie with 2020) and set a personal single-season record for the most 1st serve return points won (38 per cent).

2013 Season (75-7)
After only three titles in 2011 and four in 2012, Nadal roared to prominence with ten titles in 2013, including ATP Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome, Canada, and Cincinnati. He added Roland Garros and the US Open to his dazzling 2013 resume.

Nadal won 91.5 percent of his matches, the highest win percentage of any season where he won 50+ matches.

2017 Season (68-12)
After three seasons from 2014-16 that only produced one Grand Slam title, Nadal bounced back with a vengeance in 2017 to capture Roland Garros and the US Open, along with ATP Masters 1000 titles in Monte-Carlo and Madrid.

Nadal tied his best season for total points won (56 per cent) and service points won (70 per cent).

2019 Season (58-7)
Two Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros/US Open) and two ATP Masters 1000 titles (Rome/Canada) delivered the No. 1 ranking back to the Spaniard at the end of the 2019 season. He held onto it for 12 weeks, moving into the start of 2020.

The 2019 season delivered several personal best statistical markers for Nadal, evidence of a champion taking his game to a new level. This time, the focus came back to his serve. He won more first serve points (76 per cent) and second serve points (60 per cent – tie with 2010) than any other season of his stellar career. He also put up personal best numbers for service games won (90 per cent – tied with 2010) and service points won (70 per cent – tied with 2010 & 2017).

2022 Season (39-8)
Nadal got off to a flyer, winning 21 straight matches, including the Australian Open, and would add a 14th Roland Garros title later in the season. Unfortunately, multiple injuries (foot, rib, abdomen) cut his season short when he appeared to be playing as good, or better, than at any time since 2005.

Nadal has cleverly evolved his game over the years, partly in response to developing the necessary tools to defeat the player on the other side of the net and from pushing himself to break through existing boundaries to redefine what’s possible in our sport.

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