2017 Wimbledon player profile: Rafael Nadal

Former world number one Rafael Nadal is in a good frame of mind at the minute. The 31-year-old claimed his 15th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open. It was a breathtaking record-extending 10th time that he has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros. It was Nadal's first Slam title since reigning in Paris in 2014. Whilst Nadal has reached the first two Slam finals of the year, there is one more issue, he needs to address and that is Wimbledon. Nadal has failed to reach the quarterfinals or better since being the runner-up in 2011.

Notable results to date

The 15-time Grand Slam champion began his preparations for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open in Brisbane. The world number two usually opts to compete in Doha before the Australian Open but he decided to change things around. He lost to the defending champion Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, and the Canadian was the former charge of his new coach Carlos Moya. Nevertheless, Nadal had some matches under his belt ahead of the Australian Open, and the Spaniard defeated Florian Mayer and 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis in the first two rounds. He defeated Alexander Zverev in a five-set epic in the third round, and he dispatched Gael Monfils in the fourth round. In the quarterfinals, Nadal gained his revenge against Raonic with a comprehensive straight sets victory. In the semifinals, the 2009 champion endured another five-set clash with Grigor Dimitrov, and he defeated the Bulgarian to reach his first Slam final in almost three years. The final was Nadal against his great rival Roger Federer. Both players made unexpected runs to the final but they took advantage of their top two colleagues at the time, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic's early exits. Nadal was unable to defeat his rival in his fourth Australian Open final as he lost to Federer in five sets, and the Spaniard was unable to win two Australian Opens to complete his set of winning at least two Grand Slams at every Slam.

Nadal lost in the Australian Open final for the third time after winning the title in 2009 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)
Nadal lost in the Australian Open final for the third time after winning the title in 2009 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

The former world number one continued his good run of form, and he quickly reached his second final of the year in Acapulco. Unfortunately for Nadal, he lost in the final in the Mexican city for the first time in his career and surrendered sets for the first time in Acapulco in the final losing to Sam Querrey in straight sets. The Spaniard's next two events were the back-to-back Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami. Once again, a certain Roger Federer stood in his way, and his eternal rival dismantled him in the fourth round at the former, and at the latter, in the final.

Nadal had lost three finals on hard courts which would have been slightly disappointing for him as he hadn't won a hard court title since being victorious in Doha in 2014. Nevertheless, the 15-time Grand Slam champion was delighted to be back on his favored clay courts, and he absolutely dominated the clay court swing. Nadal claimed his first title of the year in Monte Carlo, he only dropped a set which was in his second round match with Kyle Edmund. The Spaniard went on to defeat the likes of Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman, David Goffin and his compatriot Albert Ramos Vinolas in the final, who was competing in his first-ever Masters 1000 final. Nadal's victory in Monte Carlo was a remarkable tenth title, which has a landmark 70th career title, and 50th title on clay. He then traveled to Barcelona, where he was searching for a tenth title in the Catalan city. Nadal did just that in his fifth final of the year when he defeated Dominic Thiem in the final to win his tenth consecutive match on clay.

The Spaniard won the title at the Caja Magica for the fifth time in his career and first time since 2014 (Photo by Denis Doyle / Getty)
The Spaniard won the title at the Caja Magica for the fifth time in his career and first time since 2014 (Photo by Denis Doyle / Getty)

The remarkable clay court form continued at the Mutua Madrid Open. Nadal recovered from a slow start against Fabio Fognini in the second round, and he defeated Nick Kyrgios in the third round, followed by a quarterfinal victory over David Goffin. The semifinal clash with the defending champion Novak Djokovic was crucial for Nadal. The Spaniard finally defeated Djokovic for the first time since the French Open final in 2014, and he was very emotional after the match as it was one of the biggest obstacles he needed to overcome. In the final, Nadal faced Thiem for the second successive clay-court tournament, and it was the same result with the 31-year-old defeating the young Austrian to clinch his fifth title in the Spanish capital, and embark on a 15-match winning streak.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion's 15-match winning streak carried onto in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. His compatriot Nicolas Almagro sustained a knee injury in their second round clash, and Almagro was unable to continue. Nadal won his 17th consecutive match on clay with a victory over Jack Sock. However, in the quarterfinals, the Spaniard faced off with Thiem for the third successive tournament in a row. The outcome was different this time as Thiem finally got his victory over the Spaniard for the second time in his career, snapping Nadal's 17-match winning streak.

It was a blessing in disguise for Nadal as he needed a well-deserved rest ahead of his charge for a 10th French Open title. The former world number one was the fourth seed at Roland Garros, and he did not drop a set throughout the tournament. He defeated Benoit Paire, Robin Haase, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, Dominic Thiem in their fourth successive clay-court meeting on the bounce, and he handed 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka's first loss in a Slam final. Nadal was emotional when he claimed his 10th French Open title, and it was the third time he won the French Open without losing a set, after 2008 and 2010. Both times he won the French Open without dropping a set, he went on to win Wimbledon. Could the trend continue at SW19 this year?

Nadal won a record-extending 10th French Open title at Roland Garros, the Spaniard boasts a 79-2 win-loss record in the French capital (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)
Nadal won a record-extending 10th French Open title at Roland Garros, the Spaniard boasts a 79-2 win-loss record in the French capital (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)

Grass court results leading up to Wimbledon

The two-time Wimbledon champion was due to participate at the Aegon Championships at the Queen's Club. However, he withdrew from the event on doctor's orders. Moreover, Nadal is due to participate in a few exhibition matches at the Hurlingham exhibition before Wimbledon to get a few matches on grass.

Best Wimbledon result

As aforementioned, the former world number one has won Wimbledon on two occasions in 2008 and 2010. Nadal's victory over Federer in 2008 was arguably one of the great tennis matches of all time, and in 2010, he defeated Berdych in the final. Nadal has also been a runner-up in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

Nadal entered Wimbledon in 2008 as the second seed, and he only dropped one set en route to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, he dismantled a future fellow two-time champion in Andy Murray, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. In the semifinals, Nadal defeated an unseeded German in Rainer Schuttler to advance to his third successive Wimbledon final. Federer was the five-time defending men's singles champion and he had defeated Nadal in the two previous
finals at SW19. Nonetheless, the Spaniard ended Federer's lengthy reign as the champion at Wimbledon, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 in four hours and 48 minutes.

Unfortunately, Nadal was unable to defend his title at SW19 in 2009 due to knee tendonitis. Nevertheless, the former world number one was healthy to return to the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. Once again Nadal was seeded second, and he defeated wildcard Kei Nishikori in the first round, who went on to reach his first Slam final at the US Open, four years later. Moreover, Nadal had a tough ordeal in the second round against Robin Haase, and the Spaniard had to recover from a two sets to one deficit. Nadal defeated Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals in their second consecutive Slam meeting, after defeating the Swede in the French Open final in 2010. The Spaniard sent Murray packing in the semifinals in straight sets, and Nadal won his 14th consecutive match at Wimbledon by defeating 12th seed Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Nadal's first Wimbledon title in 2008 was the first time he managed to win two Slams in a Calendar year (Source : Pool / Getty)
Nadal's first Wimbledon title in 2008 was the first time he managed to win two Slams in a Calendar year (Source: Pool / Getty)

Nadal lost to Federer in the final in 2006 and 2007, and his 20-match winning streak at Wimbledon from 2008 and 2010 (missed 2009 due to injury) came to a halt when he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets in the final in 2011. Since then, the two-time champion has struggled at Wimbledon, starting in 2012, when he suffered a shocking second-round loss to Lukas Rosol. In 2013, he lost in the first round of a Slam for the first time to Steve Darcis, Nick Kyrgios defeated him in the fourth round in 2014, and Dustin Brown upset him in the second round in 2015. The grass isn't good for the Spaniard's knees, but every time he has lost on his last four visits, the players have failed to back up their wins.

How Nadal's game translates to grass

Grass plays a lot quicker than clay which doesn't allow Nadal much time on the ball. However, the former world number one's serve has improved significantly this year, and his forehand has been devastating, which is vital. Unfortunately, the low bounce on grass doesn't do his knees any favors as he has to get down low to get the ball. Moreover, the Spaniard is a fine returner on grass, and he has the game to win Wimbledon again.

Despite being the world number two, Nadal will be seeded fourth at Wimbledon due to the Championships to their special seeding on grass which looks at performances over the last 12 months. Nadal hasn't played a competitive match on grass since his defeat to Dustin Brown two years.