20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal is well known for his great mental strength and never-back-down fighting spirit that has seen him snatch victories from almost certain defeats. The biggest testimony for this is his 13 titles won at the French Open, winning on Clay which is often cited as one of the toughest surfaces as the ball is slowed down and requires immense power for returns.
Nadal’s brand logo is a raging bull, a term attributed to him from the start of his career for his high power and ability to play long rallies and come out on top at the end. In a recent interview with a Japanese magazine, Nadal spoke about his role models growing up and how he picked up the attributes of fighting aggressive and fighting hard.
“When I was a child, I was a big fan of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and I loved watching the game between them. I learned an aggressive playstyle from Sampras and a fighting spirit from Agassi. The match between them was very inspiring because they are two different types, and of course I was also influenced by my current coach Carlos Moya,” said Nadal.
The Sampras-Agassi rivalry was similar to what Nadal had with Roger Federer and as they inspired the next generations, Nadal was impressed by the two Americans who were the stars of the 90s decade. Nadal did not play Sampras in a professional match ever but squared with Agassi on two occasions winning both the times in 3-sets which included winning the 2005 Canada Masters title.
Rafael Nadal ends the 2021 season with two titles
Rafael Nadal started the 2021 season directly at the 2021 Australian Open seeded 2nd in the tournament looking for his 2nd title at the Grand Slam in Melbourne. He did not feature on hardcourts again and came back on the Tour directly at the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters where he lost in the quarter-finals chasing his 12th title in the Masters event.
He then returned to Spain for the 2021 Barcelona Open where he battled Stefanos Tsitsipas in one of the longest Tour finals winning his 12th title in Barcelona in over 3 hours of a gruelling battle. He then changed cities for the 2021 Madrid Masters where he lost to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals but got his revenge in the quarters of the 2021 Rome Masters.
Nadal won the 2021 Rome Masters defeating Novak Djokovic in the finals, his 10th title at the Masters event and his 36th overall Masters title that tied him with Djokovic for the most number of ATP-1000 titles won. Nadal then played at the 2021 French Open looking to become the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles but was defeated by Djokovic in the semis in a thrilling match that surely was one of the contenders for the match of the tournament.
Nadal did not play on Tour after picking up an injury during the French Open and returned at the 2021 Washington Open but lost in round 3 and his injury got worse that forced him to end his season prematurely.