Rafael Nadal had a near perfect 2017, wining six titles and rising eight places to reestablish himself as the world number one, on the ATP singles rankings. His lengthy schedule however, took a toll on his body. He decided to opt out of two tournaments at the end of the year, and also pulled out of the ATP world tour finals. Nevertheless, it has been a year to be proud of for Rafa, and he can take many positives from 2017, into the next season. Today we look at some of the numbers and stats that have stood out in Nadal’s 2017 season.
Rafael Nadal started his season at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. He defended his title there beating the likes of Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and David Goffin en route. It was his fourth title in Abu Dhabi. However, his pre-Australian open preparation took a blow, as he failed to make an impact in the Brisbane International, losing to Milos Raonic and later on went on to lose to Nick Kyrgios at the FAST4 exhibition tournament in Sydney.
After sailing through the first two rounds of the Australian open, Rafa faced a stern test in the form of Alexander Zverev. In a high-octane encounter, the Spaniard managed to bounce back from being a set down twice, to defeat the young German in five quality sets. In the semi-finals, he came up against a rejuvenated Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov was determined to put up a fight to remember. However, Nadal managed to scrape through in five sets that lasted almost five hours, setting up a blockbuster finale, against his old rival Roger Federer. Nadal went into the final as the favorite having had the better of Roger Federer on numerous occasions. However, it was Federer, who would prevail in their 35th meeting, coming back from a break down in the fifth to capture his 18th major title.
Post Australian open, was a disappointing affair for Nadal, as he pulled out of Rotterdam Open citing fatigue issues. He then lost to the American Sam Querrey in the finals of the Acapulco open in straight sets. He was defeated in the quarters of the Indian wells, again by Roger Federer, this time in straight sets. The trend continued in Miami, as he lost for the fifth time in the finals of Miami, succumbing to none other than Roger Federer again. It was the first time that the Spaniard had lost four consecutive times against his nemesis.
Nadal and his love affair with clay
The clay court season was another story to remember for Rafa. Pre-French open, he started his campaign in Monte-Carlo, winning his first title of the year in the absence of Roger Federer, who had opted out of the entire clay court season to focus on grass. It was a record 10th title for Nadal in Monte-Carlo. It was also his 29th ATP Masters 1000 title, one short of Novak Djokovic’s all-time record of 30 ATP Masters 1000 titles. The title meant that he was the first person in the open era, to win ten titles at the same tournament, and also took his tally of titles on the dirt to 50, a record that is second to none. Nadal’s clay court dominance continued in Barcelona, where he won yet again to capture his tenth crown there. It was a record 18th ATP 500 title for Rafa. Nadal remained flawless, as in went on to win the Madrid open, defeating a resurgent Dominic Thiem in the finals. It was his fifth crown in Madrid, thus equaling Djokovic’s record of 30 ATP masters’ 1000 titles. The Spaniard’s 17-match streak was snapped, as he was defeated in straight sets in the finals of the Italian open, by Dominic Thiem. However, Rafa’s preparation was the French open was more than satisfactory as he went into the tournament as the clear favorite. Sure enough Rafa went on to win his tenth Roland-Garros title, barely breaking a sweat in the finals against Stan Wawrinka. Nadal’s tenth title at the French open was an open era record, and in doing so, he also surpassed Pete Sampras’s grand slam tally.
Nadal went into the Wimbledon having not played any competitive matches on grass, since 2015. Having played only two matches at an exhibition event, he was not expecting much from himself at the third slam of the year. Rafa was defeated in the fourth round, by Gilles Muller, in five sets. It was the second time that Muller had overthrown Nadal at Wimbledon, having done so in 2005. Federer went on to win his 19th major title, and thus intensified the race to finish the year as the world no. 1.
US open & World number one
Nadal was in a good position to return to the world number one, as he entered into the Canadian open. However, he was stunned by the 18-year-old prodigy-Denis Shapovalov, in the third round. Nadal could have gone on to secure the world no.1 spot had he reached the semis of the tournament. It was not long before Rafael Nadal did manage to become the world number one, as Federer withdrew from the Cincinnati masters’ 1000.The US open came as a surprise, as Andy Murray pulled out just one day before the tournament began. It looked like another battle between, Federer and Nadal was on the cards. But, Federer was knocked out by the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters. Nadal looked like the favorite to win the title and did so in straight sets, defeating his friend Kevin Anderson in the finals. The title saw Nadal lift a third US open trophy, and close in the gap between him and Federer. The title also meant the year-end world number position was almost cemented, as he went into the final stages of the season.
Post US open was marred my injuries and fatigue. He did manage to win in Beijing, to lift this second title there, but was thwarted in the finals of the Shanghai open by Federer, in straight sets. Despite winning the title in Shanghai, Federer withdrew from the Paris masters’ 1000, and in the process ended the race to finish the year as the world number one. This meant that it was the fourth time Nadal was the year-end world number one. He also became the only player to regain the world no. 1 spot three times. At the ATP world tour finals Nadal withdrew after his round Robin loss to David Goffin, citing issues relating to his knee.
It was fantastic year for Rafa, as he climbed eight places to regain the world number spot. A year which saw him win 6 titles and $15,864,000 in prize money. Nadal racked up a win-loss record of 67-11, but fatigue and injuries still hampered him from giving a 100%. Rafa is yet to get his 2018 campaign started, as the knee issue persists. It remains to be seen if he is going to be ready for the Australian open.