Rafael Nadal is one of the best tennis players in the world and he isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon. Though 2020 has been a rough year for many athletes, Nadal managed to win another French Open title and finish out the year as the second-ranked player in the world. The Spanish star has won a whopping 20 Grand Slam titles throughout his career, which is tied for the most in men’s tennis history alongside Roger Federer.
While Nadal has been playing at an extremely high level since he was just a teenager, there’s still a lot to learn about the 34-year-old. Here are 7 fun facts you need to know about the tennis champ.
Switched to a Left-Handed Player
Nadal is one of the most famous left-handed players in the game, but he’s actually naturally right-handed! At a very early age, his uncle and coach Toni Nadal realized his right-handed backhand could be a real asset to his game. They were able to change his technique and he became very comfortable as a left-handed player.
Tennis > Soccer
It’s hard to imagine Nadal doing anything else with his life besides play tennis, but he actually had a future in soccer. In fact, he was forced to make a decision when he was just 12 years old to either pursue tennis or soccer. He obviously chose tennis, but we have no doubt he could’ve been a professional soccer player if he wanted to.
Beat a Grand Slam Champion at 15
Nadal shocked everyone when he beat former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash when he was just 15 years old. Though it was just an exhibition match, it was clear from that moment that Nadal was going to be a special player.
Back in April 2002, Nadal managed to win his first ATP match against Ramon Delgado. He was just 15 at the time and became the ninth player in history to win a match prior to their 16th birthday.
Pals With Shakira
Though Nadal’s extremely focused on his tennis career, he also manages to have a little fun outside of the court. In fact, he is good friends with singer Shakira and even appeared in her music video for Gypsy in 2010.
A lot of athletes are superstitious, but Nadal may be at the top of the list. For example, he has to line up his water bottles in a perfectly straight line at all times while he’s playing. He also does the exact same ritual before every serve, without fail. Hey, if we were as good at tennis as Nadal, we’d be extremely superstitious too!
King of the Clay
Nadal has won all four Grand Slam titles at least once, but there’s a reason why he’s known as the King of the Clay. Nadal has won a whopping 13 French Open titles, 11 Monte Carlo Masters titles, and 11 Barcelona titles, all tournaments played on clay. In fact, the 13 titles he’s won at the French Open is more than any player’s ever won at a single tournament in their career.