Rafa has 23

AP Photo/Laurent Baheux

AP Photo/Laurent Baheux

Happy Birthday to Rafa!

While we hope Rafa’s having fun partying with family and friends on his beautiful island, we decided to take a look back at Rafa’s career so far and raise a glass to toast all that he’s achieved in just 22 years.

Thanks to Kalliopeia for fact-checking the results list. Thanks to kefuoe, tiemyshoe, skyejaden, and johanne for the help in gathering some random quotes. There are so many good ones, we know we missed many. What are your favorites?

1986

Rafael Nadal Parera was born June 3


1994

Won regional tennis championships for under-12s


1998

Choice made between football and tennis


2001

Played in 2 Futures events September
Ranked #811 December


2002

Won first ATP match April
Won 6 Futures events
Ranked #200 December


2003

Won 2 Challenger events
Made Wimbledon debut and reached the 3rd round June
Won Umag doubles title July
Made US Open debut and reached the 2nd round August
ATP Newcomer of the Year
Ranked #49 December


2004

Won Chennai doubles title January
Made Australian Open debut and reached the 3rd round January
Won first match against Roger Federer March
Won first ATP title in Sopot, Poland August
Played for Spain in Davis Cup Semi-finals September


“There were moments when our nerves showed but we always showed a winning attitude.”

Youngest player to win a singles rubber in a Davis Cup final for a winning nation


“The fans were incredible and I owe 50 per cent of my victory to them,”

Ranked #51 December


2005

Won Doha doubles title January
Won International Series event in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil February
Won International Series Gold event in Acapulco, Mexico February
Reached the final of his first ATP Masters Series event in Miami March
Won first ATP Masters Series event in Monte Carlo April
Won Barcelona April


“If I want to be the number one I’m going to have to improve a lot of things, including my serve. Everyone is fighting for the same thing – and Federer is well ahead of everyone else right now.”

“I love the atmosphere at Wimbledon and the grass. I want to win Wimbledon, but it might be difficult with my style of tennis. I hope to improve my serve and volley.”

Won Rome May
Youngest player to break into the top 5 since Michael Chang May
First teenager to win 5 ATP titles in a season since Andre Agassi


“I notice no pressure in his mind, just a maturity that I have never seen in somebody so young.” – Carlos Costa

“Watching the way he handles everything to do with his tennis, you would never realise how introverted he can be off the court.” – Benito Perez-Barbadillo

“No, no, nothing has really changed in my life. Not even my cell (phone) number.”

Won first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros June


I am very happy” – on beating Federer to get into the final

“It’s very difficult for me to master the tenses in English. The tenses are very difficult for me, especially the verbs.”

“I fight, I fight, I fight every, every game.” – on the Roland Garros final

“I can’t say my feelings because that’s unbelievable for me. It is a dream for me, (winning) here.”

“It’s one of the best moments of my career. It’s a dream and I remembered all the bad times I had when I was younger.”

“I didn’t think I was going to cry, but my whole family was very emotional. In the end, I started crying also.”

“All the work you’ve been doing during all those years, the sacrifices, when you reach your goal, it’s an extraordinary moment. For the first time I cried after winning a match.”

“I’m going to Wimbledon to enjoy myself and do my best, my intention is to go there and learn so that one day I’ll be able to do something big there.”

“I’m going to go home (Mallorca) and build a grass court for myself.”

Won Bastad July
Won Stuttgart July
Won Montreal August


“Now I know I can play on hardcourt. That gives me confidence going into the US Open.”

Won Beijing September


“Roger Federer is the best player in the world. He wins everything. He’s lost only three matches this year. It’s amazing. I can’t be number one this year but I’m still very young.”

Won Madrid October


“I think this year is almost impossible to repeat. I’m going to start next year in high spirits, but without pressure because this has been an incredible year, a year to remember, to keep at home like a picture you hang on the wall.”

ATP Most Improved Player
Ranked #2 December


2006

Won Dubai March
Won 2nd Monte Carlo title April
Won 2nd Barcelona title April


“Borg’s total motivates me. It thrills me to think it’s there, but we’ll have to see what happens.” – after beating Nieminen to reach the Barcelona semis

“You can’t compare me to Borg, he was the greatest tennis player of all time.”

“Winning four times here is unimaginable.”

Won 2nd Rome title May


“It’s not easy, the normal thing would be to not make it because as far as I know only Thomas Muster has won those three finals two years running.” – on his chances to win his 3rd clay court title in a row

“Well, Muster was Muster” – when asked how Muster managed it

“I don’t mind if it goes on for 20 hours, so long as I win.” – on if he expected a repeat of last year’s long final

Won 2nd Roland Garros title June


“Come on……I got one stuck, but I’m not going to stop eating bananas because of that. Of course, I eat bananas during the match once in a while – with a great degree of caution.”

“Today I played the best match, especially (since) Hewitt is someone …… I mean, you let him grab a finger and he takes the arm” – on beating Hewitt to progress to the 4th round at Roland Garros

“I think it will be a beautiful final.”

“It’s incredible. I think I prefer this year because it’s harder to defend a title.”

“I think this victory is more important for me because I was injured in the beginning of the season. I wasn’t sure I could come back to my best level, and I see I’m still No. 2.”

Reached first Wimbledon final July


“It was not my day. I won, but it was Andre’s day. He is a legend, unbelievable. He was crying on the way to the dressing room. I saw how much it meant.” – after his 3rd round victory over Agassi

“Is a dream being in this final. I am very emotional. I am very happy. I don’t have more words.” – immediately after walking off the court to a standing ovation having won his semi-final match

“When I was playing my best tennis, the match was close, very close. That’s nice for me. It’s important for me to believe I can beat Roger on this surface.”

Ranked #2 December


“My goal in life when I was a young boy was to be happy. My goal now? To be happy. Nothing has changed. I have got better at tennis, but that is all. Nothing in me has changed. People think they will meet me and I will be a different person, but I won’t. I am the same. I still want nothing more than to be happy.”

“A few years ago I asked him if he would like to have a career like mine. He looked at me with the sincerity that you usually find in small children and said, quite seriously, that he aspired to more. And, I knew that he would be a better player than me.” – Carlos Moya


2007

I have pain here, in my famoos ass” – Australian Open press conference

Won Indian Wells March
Won 3rd Monte Carlo title April
Won 3rd Barcelona title April
Won 3rd Rome title May
Won 3rd Roland Garros title June


“First year was very emotional because it was the first. Second year was very emotional because I came back from injury. And this year, I am very happy because I play my best tennis here.”

“This was my best Roland Garros. I am playing my best tennis. I am a more complete player than I was last year. I come into the net more and have better chances than before.”

“I always thought winning Roland Garros three times in a row would be impossible.”

Reached 2nd Wimbledon final July


“I have to improve. I can’t stop. But sometimes when you are improving it is not always easy to win.”

“He’s having his holidays.” – when asked what Federer was doing while Rafa played 4 days in a row to complete one match

“I don’t think so but your question definitely is :-)” – when asked if he was awkward

“There are things in life, in the World we live in that are really bad and serious. To lose a match, even if it is the final of THE tennis tournament is something that only really affects me. And that’s OK. I can cope with it. I will try again next year and I will work hard to keep improving.” – From his 2007 Wimbledon blog

Won Stuttgart July


“We can’t talk about it. I can’t understand anything he says.” – talking about playing doubles with Hewitt in Montreal

Ranked #2 December


2008

My body is perfect”” – Australian Open press conference

Won 4th Monte Carlo singles title & 1st doubles title April
Won 4th Barcelona title May
Won Hamburg May
Won 4th Roland Garros title June
Won Queens June
Won Wimbledon July


“Why would I be different just because I play good tennis? My family has educated me this way and I agree with this.” – when asked how he stays grounded and humble in his Wimbledon blog

“WIMBLEDON !!! (and then a gold medal…. :-)” – on whether he would prefer to win Wimbledon or a gold medal at the Olympics in his Wimbledon blog

“Today I have been listening to National Anthems (France, Italy, Germany) and also a song called Paloma from an Argentinean singer called Andres Calamaro.” – when asked what five songs he listens to most in his Wimbledon blog

“I practiced with John McEnroe the other day. I wish it was him tomorrow in the final and not Roger… :-)” – Wimbledon blog

“No I never smashed a racquet. If I hit a wrong shot it is my fault not the racquet’s.” – Wimbledon blog

“We cooked one of those dishes of pasta with shrimps and mushrooms and stayed calm.” – on what he did the night before the Wimbledon final

“I am going to win. I am going to get there. I am fine. Be calm.” – during the 5th set rain delay in the Wimbledon final.

Won Master Series Canada July
Reached #1 ranking August
Won Olympic Gold Medal August


“I managed to avoid disaster. But you seem to know more than me… :-)” – when asked if his reported mixing of reds and whites in the Olympics laundry room ended in a pink disaster

Reached US Open semis for the first time August


“Sure it’s a difficult surfrace, but not more difficult than grass, for example” – about the US Open hard courts

“I feel that a lot of people do recognize what I do. But what really motivates me is to win titles. I don’t really pay much attention to the negatives. I take more the positives.” – in his US Open blog when asked about doubters and critics

“Good question. But I prefer not to answer. I do have my favourites. He is Swedish with Moroccan origins… ” – when asked who his favorite umpire is (hint: just say Mo!)

“I think I am an OK dancer. Not great but can do something decent on a dance floor.”

My English is almost perfect” – US Open press conference

ITF World Champion
Prince of Asturias Award


“It was an unbelievable moment for me. To know that someone in those conditions knew about sports or what I was doing … Very emotional.” – when asked how it felt when Ingrid Betancourt said how listening to his victories at Roland Garros had helped to sustain her during her captivity in the jungle

ATP Player of the Year
Ranked #1 December


“I am humble but the numbers are the numbers.”

“Do we really think about the money when we walk on court, and the answer is clear and simple without sounding arrogant. We really don’t think about it when we step on court. We want to win.”


2009

Won Doha doubles title January


“I was happy to finally play with Marc, as we often play golf or go fishing together but we had never played together in doubles. I had asked him a few years ago in Spain but he had refused.”

Won Australian Open January


“How many double faults?” Four. “Four double faults in four hours. I think I served OK.” – post-match presser at the Australian Open

“I had the feeling that, after four hours, Roger has to be tired too and if he plays well he has to beat me because I am more tired than him, I think. The important things were that I would not let my concentration drop and my legs still had the answers.” – talking about the AO final.

“I have won three of the great titles, my second Roland Garros was so special because I won with an injury, Wimbledon is my dream because I wanted a grand slam on something other than clay and I had been to the finals twice, so that was the one. That gave me so much self-motivation.” – after winning the Australian Open

“Sorry but I don’t know what it is.” – when asked how many chin ups he can do

Not everybody likes the sleepless” – in reference to his new shirts with sleeves

Won Indian Wells March


“If I eat two, three cookies, maybe it’s okay. Maybe not for the stomach, no, but for the head it’s better.”

“So I have to keep moving all the time and try to play inside the court. Because if you play the ball when the call is coming, I don’t have to wait to the ball. I have to go to the ball.”

“I go to the net sometimes, and, well, I never stop the legs.”

“I think I played really bad all the time. When I have 3-0 in the third I played worse. It was amazing disaster.” – on his loss to Del Potro in Miami

Nominated for Laureus World Sportsman of the Year April
Won 5th Monte Carlo title April


“Fifth title here in Monte-Carlo. I never expect something like this. But, yeah, I feeled very emotional today, no?”

“For Barcelona, Wednesday first round, not five.”

Won 5th Barcelona title April
Won 4th Rome title May


“I think here is faster, yeah. More crazy bounce. I like that, but you have to be playing really well.” – when asked about the playing conditions

(Imitating golf swing.) – when asked how he will spend the next few days after his win in Rome

“I know (I am going to lose) one day or the other. Since I know it will happen, I am not worried about it. That’s life, the sport and the difficulty of tennis.”

“If I play at my best level, I’m confident I’ll have a good result in Paris, and if that doesn’t happen, I have to take it in stride because I’ve having a really good year.”

“Don’t worry. He is Nadal.” – Francisco Roig

“Rafa is the same person he has always been. That is a greater achievement than being No. 1 in the world.” – Francisco Roig

“Why change if you have perfect?”

What next? June



42 Responses

  1. killian says:

    Thank you one and all for a fabulous tribute on Rafa’s 23rd! It was great fun to read and made my heart even more smitten, if that’s possible!! He is AMAZING!!!!!!! thank you so much for this compilation.! <3

  2. miri says:

    Ah, sadly, it’s time to retire the b-day banner

  3. CC says:

    Ahhh…well, there might be a new one next year… I hope Mr Nadal had a good birthday!
    And thanks for your lovely posts, miri!

  4. AnaR says:

    Hey everyone.. We have news for Rafael, he’s recovered from but now is a new step for him. There is a before and after what happened at RG. Now Rafael will be stronger .. and will focus more on the matches, only on the matches. But you know that he likes to play in against .. that is, when the more problems are bigger .. (uf, not if I explain) he plays better. When Rafa comes to Queens surely he’s very well with the people of Queens because they will all know what happened and the welcome will be fantastic.. and he will remain the same great tennis player ever, but things will never be the same..

  5. loverafa4ever says:

    I loved the heading… I forgot to say that… “Rafa has 23″… He keeps saying that “I have only 22 years old… well 23 in a few days” :P