Rafael Nadal (b. 1986) is currently the No. 2 ranked tennis player in the world. From Mallorca, Spain, Rafael "Rafa" (as he is known) won his first ATP match at the tender age of 15 and at just 20 years of age is already 35th on the list of top prize $ winners, with over $8m already won.

He is known as the "King Of Clay", due to his dominance over the clay court tournaments such as the French Open. In June 2006 he managed to fend off world #1 Roger Federer to win the French title for his second successive year, earning himself €940 000 for four sets of tennis, and denying the Swiss his as-yet elusive Grand Slam. It was his 60th straight clay victory. The same pair would meet again at Wimbledon some weeks later (a record), although this time, it was on Federer's preferred surface: grass. Although Nadal lost that match in four sets, it was a great achievement to even reach the final. Nadal is one of a select few players who have a positive match record against Roger Federer: 6-3 on clay, 2-2 on hard courts, and 0-1 on grass.1

Nadal has 2 winning streaks of more than 20 matches, and, after proceeding to the second round of the 2006 French Open Nadal surpassed Argentine Guillermo Vilas's 29-year record of 53 clay court victories in a row, going on to extend that record to 62 successive wins on clay.

Sponsored by Nike, he is easy to recognise on court because of his preference for wearing sleeveless shirts. He is principally a base-line player, usually more than happy to go blow-for-blow with any opponent, setting up winners with his two-handed backhand. As long as his grass court game keeps improving, and we have no reason to believe that it isn't, it's hard to see now why he won't eventually succeed Roger Federer as the world #1.

French Open Champions
2003 Juan Carlos Ferrero
2004 Gastón Gaudio
2005 Rafael Nadal
2006 Rafael Nadal

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafael_Nadal

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