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Rafael Nadal – World Tour Finals contenders

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Originally published on: 15/11/10 23:27

Age: 24 (June 3 1986)
Birthplace: Mallorca, Spain

ATP
ranking: 1st
Qualified: 1st
Season best: Winner – Masters 1000 Monte Carlo, Masters 1000 Rome, Masters 1000 Madrid, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open, Tokyo. Runner-up – Doha
Season win-loss record: 67-9
Prize money (2010): $7,711,998
Record vs. top eight: Roger Federer 14-7; Novak Djokovic 15-7; Andy Murray 8-4; Robin Soderling 5-2; Tomas Berdych 8-3; David Ferrer 11-3; Andy Roddick 5-3
2010 Grand Slam record: Australian Open QF; Roland Garros W; Wimbledon W; US Open W
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals best:
Making fourth appearance; semi finalist in 2006 and 2007

Season review: A dream season for Nadal, who answered all the questions over his fitness to put together one of the greatest seasons witnessed in the modern era, which included three successive Grand Slams, completing the career Grand Slam in the process and finishing the year as world No.1.

After missing a large chunk of 2009 due to tendinitis in his knees, Nadal rested up well in the off-season to open up the season with a final in Doha.

The first Grand Slam of the year was always going to be the real test of his physical state as the Spaniard tried to defend his crown. Things began well as Nadal eased through the opening rounds before dropping a set against both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Ivan Karlovic en route to the quarters. The ultimate test came against Andy Murray, who terrorised the Spaniard until at two sets and a break down Nadal was forced to throw in the towel as his knees threatened to give way.

Taking ten weeks to recoup, Nadal returned to action with a semi-final appearance Indian Wells and then followed up with a terrific run to the last four in Miami, but the wait for a first title in nearly a year went on.

Moving onto his beloved clay suddenly the pressure heaped on Nadal, but like a duck to water Nadal looked at ease on the clay courts in Monte Carlo, losing just 13 games in four matches en route to the final, where he dispatched compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-1 to secure an emotional record sixth crown.

Carrying on this rampant form, Nadal secured titles in Rome and then defeated defending champion Roger Federer in the final in Madrid.

This set the Spaniard up for another assault at the Roland Garros title, where he was also looking to make amends for the shock defeat to Robin Soderling last year. And it couldn’t have worked out better. Nadal reached the final without losing a set – and without having to face a single player inside the world’s top 20. In the final Nadal faced Soderling, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to settle the score after suffering his one and only defeat in Paris to the Swede. The Spaniard did not disappoint, winning in straight sets to become the Roland Garros champion for a fifth time.

There was also a score to settle on the grass, having been unable to

defend his title at Wimbledon. A quarter-final in Queen’s was adequate preparation on the grass but the 24-year-old left his best until it was most important. This was definitely the case in the early rounds where he was forced into five set battles against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschner before fighting back from a set down to defeat Soderling. Into the semis Nadal produced his best to down home favourite Murray and then put together an assured performance to see off Tomas Berdych and collect his second Wimbledon title.

After a gruelling spring/summer the Spaniard once again gave himself time to return to full fitness for the US Open Series. On what is meant to be his weaker surface Nadal reached the semis and quarters at the Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati respectively before heading to Flushing Meadows.

One of the notable omissions in Nadal’s highly impressive resume, the Spaniard was more determined than ever to win the US Open and complete the career Grand Slam in New York. Nadal was in ruthless mood, defeating the likes of Fernando Verdasco and Mikhail Youzhny in clinical fashion on his way to the final.

Even a rain-interrupted final weekend did not disrupt Nadal’s focus as he defeated world No.3 Novak Djokovic in four sets to become only the seventh man to complete the career Grand Slam.

In contrast to last season, Nadal entered the final stretch of the season in superb shape and went on to secure his seventh title of the year in Tokyo. And although he has not competed since a disappointing defeat to Jurgen Melzer in the third round of the Shanghai Masters and having picked up a niggling shoulder injury, Nadal seems to be gearing himself up nicely heading into the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Last year’s World Tour Finals: It turned out to be one to forget for the nine-time Grand Slam champion, losing all three of his round robin matches to close an injury-hit ATP season at a disappointing low, though Davis Cup victory a week later ended the year on a high. After a string of good results in the two previous events this appeared to be one tournament too many as he struggled to compete against Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko and Djokovic.

Chances: It seems strange to say but the world No.1 won’t be the firm favourite coming in, owing to his struggles in the past. But motivated by having not won this tournament yet and physically and mentally stronger than ever, who could argue against Nadal adding this title to an already prolific year?

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