With Nadal squaring off against David Ferrer in his opening match today at the ATP World Tour Finals 2013 group stage, we look at Rafa’s 2013 – he only suffered six losses in total from 5 different players.
Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) has been a near-unstoppable force throughout the 2013 season and has mounted what can arguably be considered as the greatest comeback season in the history of the Open Era. The Spaniard returned to the ATP Tour in February and commenced his quest to regain his rightful place amongst the elite competitors. Throughout the season, he has amassed 10 Tour titles, including two Grand Slam titles and 5 Masters 1000 titles and over $11 million in prize money. He has also managed to regain the No. 1 ranking last month and has a strong chance of becoming the first player to end the year as World No. 1 twice after losing the ranking. Throughout this remarkable season, Nadal has only lost to a handful of players, some elite and others merely journeymen, but they all share in common a victory over the Spaniard.
Here is a detailed look at the five players who defeated Nadal in 2013:
1. David Ferrer (Player Profile) (BNP Paribas Masters)
David Ferrer ended a nine-match losing streak to his fellow countryman, when he stunned the World No. 1 in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Masters last week. It was a contest that Ferrer thoroughly controlled as he simply outpaced Nadal en route to his second consecutive final in Paris. Ferrer played the better points and was able to keep Nadal guessing and didn’t allow him any rhythm in the match. The win was a convincing straight victory and stands in stark contract to their prior encounters, which were mostly dominated by Nadal. Of their 25 previous meetings, Rafa leads with 20 wins over the World No. 3, including the French Open final, which was a record-eighth title for Nadal at the event. The two will meet once again in the round robin stage of the ATP World Tour Final, where they are grouped with Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.
2. Juan Martin del Potro (Player Profile) (Shanghai Masters)
Following his loss in the final of the China Open, Nadal set his sights on a sixth Masters 1000 title, when he arrived in Shanghai and had a strong run until he collided with the ‘Tower of Tandil’ Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine showed some of his trademark resiliency and sheer power to dominate the semi-final contest 6-2, 6-4. It was a quick and sudden end for Nadal, who up to that point, was yet to experience such a thrashing in a hard court match this season. Nadal commit an uncharacteristic number of errors and was simply unable to keep up with the powerful Del Potro. The Spaniard stood far behind the baseline in that encounter, which showed the respect he gave the World No. 5 for his big game. The win was Del Potro’s first since of Nadal since the 2009 US Open and brings their overall head-to-head record to 8-4 for Nadal.
3. Novak Djokovic (Player Profile) (Monte Carlo Masters, China Open)
Novak Djokovic was the only man to defeat Nadal twice this season. The first win was arguably one of their greatest encounters, which took place in the finals in Monte Carlo, where the Serb bested Nadal in straight sets – a historic feat considering Nadal held a tight stranglehold over the clay courts tournaments of the region. The two would meet three more times before Djokovic would once again topple his Spanish adversary. Heading into the Beijing Open, Nadal had won 10 Tour titles, including 5 Masters 1000 events and two Grand Slam events (Rolland Garros and US Open) and was en route to overtake Novak Djokovic as World no. 1. All Nadal had to do to regain the top spot was reach the final at the China Open, which he did successfully before having his undefeated hard court streak snapped by the man he usurped the ranking from.
The riveting rivalry between these two great competitors is exceptional, as they have met more times than any other top two players on the tour, with 38 tour meetings. The previous record was held by legends Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, who met 36 times on the tour. The head-to-head stands at 22-16 in favour of Nadal, who has won six of their last nine matches dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season. This rivalry is far from complete; so long as both men continue to dominate competition on the tour, they will likely clash many more time over the next few years.
4. Steve Darcis (Player Profile) (Wimbledon)
Steve Darcis is a name that most casual tennis fans would never consider, had it not been for his extraordinary win over Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the Wimbledon Championships this year. That statement is not a matter of opinion, as since that win, Darcis has not participated at any ATP World Tour events. He would lose to Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon and would spend the remainder of the season at Challenger and Futures events around the world. His YTD record is an abysmal 5-6, which include losses in the first round of s-Hertogenbosch, Rolland Garros, Delray Beach and Casablanca. With his inability to string together more than two wins on the tour, how was the Belgian player capable of dismissing the 2008 champion on the first day of the tournament? It was a mixture of Darcis playing with nothing to lose, and Nadal’s lack of time and preparation on the tricky grass courts following his injury that brought about the stunning result.
5. Horacio Zeballos (Player Profile) (Vina del Mar)
In his first tournament back following his knee injury, Nadal defeated Federico Delbonis, Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Jeremy Chardy in straight sets before losing to Horacio Zeballos in the finals in Vina del Mar. The Spaniard won the opening set in a tiebreak but lost the second set tiebreak and then a close third set for a final scoreline of 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 4-6. It was a slightly baffling performance from Zeballos, who following that particular tournament in Chile, has since been unable to secure a three match winning streak on the tour. He only reached the quarter-final of two more tournaments that season (Umag and Acapulco). The World No. 58 has only won two of his last ten matches dating back to the US Open and he failed to even reach the main draw in Paris last week. It was a disappointing season conclusion following such a promising start for the Argentine in February. This week, he is receiving wild card entry as the top seed a ATP Challengers event in Bogota, Colombia.