26 Interesting Facts About Rafael Nadal

Last updated on January 30th, 2022

Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest names in the game of tennis. Born on 3 June 1986, he has accomplished what not many have accomplished, including his record twelve Rolland Garros titles. Along with Roger Federer, tennis pundits considered him as one of the greatest of all times (GOAT). With these facts about Rafael Nadal, let us learn more about his personal and professional life.

1. He has a special place in his heart for Mallorca

Born and raised in Mallorca, he still calls the Spanish island home during the offseason. He is one of the few players on the ATP Tour still living in their hometown.

2. Did you know that Rafael Nadal is naturally right-handed?

The most famous left-handed player in tennis right now is actually a right-hander in every other facet of his life. At an early age, his uncle and longtime coach Toni Nadal noticed that he was hitting two-handed forehands off both sides. After some tinkering, it was discovered that his strong right-handed backhand could become a serious threat later on in life. It’s now natural to him to play left-handed.

3. He picked tennis over soccer at 12 years old

With soccer in his blood and tennis being so demanding, Rafael Nadal had to make a serious decision when he was 12 years old. There was an opportunity to continue focusing on soccer only and hoping for the best, or to pursue tennis full-time. He chose the latter, and although it’s impossible to tell how great he could have been on the pitch, most think he made the right decision.

4. His uncle was a top-level professional soccer player

Uncle Tony might be well known for his coaching, but another uncle named Miguel Angel Nadal is a retired professional soccer player. He played for FC Barcelona and RCD Mallorca at the club level and even earned 62 caps with the Spanish national team.

5. The Spanish Tennis Federation didn’t support him like other players

Spain wanted him to start training in Barcelona to step his game up another level as a teenager. His family did not want to pursue this option, so they never received the same type of funding as other top players in the country. The family strongly felt that a move to Barcelona would hurt his education.

6. On The Court

He’s loyal to Babolat, but not to the latest racquet technology. Like a lot of top players in tennis, he’s pretty resistant to change when it comes to his racket set up. He has been using a customized version of the Aero Pro Drive racquet for several years, even though Babolat does not make that racquet any longer. They paint his racquet to look like the newest model of the line, but he has played with a pretty similar racquet his entire professional career.

7. He prefers a smaller grip than most

He uses an L2, 4 1/4 inch grip on his racquet, which is one of the smallest on the ATP tour. He likes the whip effect that he can get on shots with a smaller handle, and it’s easier for him to grip and change grips as well.

8. He’s reluctant to coaching changes as well

For the first 12 years of his professional career, Toni Nadal was Nadal’s main coach. It wasn’t until he started to slow down and want a break that he brought in former ATP #1 player Carlos Moya in 2016. The two squared off on the court, and are still great friends.

9. He beat a Grand Slam Champion before he was 15 years old

In an exhibition match, Nadal caught the tennis world by surprise by beating Pat Cash. The 1987 Wimbledon winner was retired at the time, but still playing regularly in numerous events around the world.

10. He’s one of the youngest players to ever win an ATP match

In April 2002, Nadal picked up his first win of his career against Ramon Delgado in Majorca. With the victory, he became the ninth player in open era history to win an ATP match before their 16th birthday.

Trophy ceremony

11. Every trophy gets the same signature bite

When he won his first French Open in 2004, many people were surprised to see his unique celebration when he was awarded the trophy and started getting pictures taken. It is a tradition that he still keeps up with today, gently biting every trophy in front of photographers.

12. He’s one of only two players to win the Career Golden Slam

One advantage Nadal has over his main competitors, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic, is the fact that he has a career golden slam. Not only has he won each grand slam title at least once, but he has a gold medal in singles at the Olympics. He was able to capture the 2008 Olympic gold medal win when the tournament was in Beijing.

13. A Tour Finals title still eludes him

The only major significant tournament Nadal has failed to win is the Tour Finals at the end of the year. He has finished as the runner up twice, but still waiting to get his first title.

14. He enjoys playing for his country

Along with representing Spain in the Olympics, Nadal has played in quite a few Davis Cups for Spain as well. He has helped the country win four titles.

15. He has a commanding lead in head-to-head matches against Roger Federer

Through the 2019 season, Rafael Nadal holds a 24-16 record over Roger Federer. He has been particularly dominant on clay with a 14-2 record. He also has a 6-3 advantage in head-to-head matchups in Grand Slam finals.

16. Only three players have a winning record over Nadal

There are only three players with an edge over Nadal in career matchups, and one of them capitalized on a very young Spaniard. Dominik Hrbaty is 3-1 all-time against him, but the last meeting was way back in 2005. Nikolay Davydenko retired from tennis with a 6-5 record against Nadal. Finally, Novak Djokovic currently has a 28-26 record against Nadal.

17. He’s very superstitious

There are a lot of examples of Nadal being superstitious, but the most notable one while playing is his insistence on lining up all his water bottles. Between each changeover, it’s very noticeable in person and on television that he lines them up just right.

18. He switched up his look for a price

As superstitious as Nadal is, he did add a watch to his on-court look in 2010. Before the change, he wore a double wristband on each wrist only. While the exact number has not been 100% confirmed, the Richard Mille watch is valued at over $500,000.

Rafael Nadal in French Open
Rafael Nadal in action in French Open in 2012. Image credit – Yann Caradec

19. There is a reason why he is called the King of Clay

Through the 2020 season, Nadal has 13 French Open, 11 Monte Carlo Masters, and 11 Barcelona titles. His game is perfectly suited for clay, as he has an aggressive, behind the baseline game with heavy topspin. He’s one of the fastest players on tour, and also one of the fittest. Growing up on clay, he can slide into shots like few others.

20. Off The Court

He played a love interest of Shakira in a music video

Shakira picked Nadal as her love interest in the music video for Gypsy, off her album She Wolf. Nadal is friends with Shakira, as well as her long-time boyfriend and professional soccer player, Pique.

21. He doesn’t trust dogs

Millions and millions of people around the world love their pets, but Nadal said in his 2010 autobiography that he “doubts their intentions.” It shouldn’t be entirely ruled out that he never gets a dog, but it may take some convincing.

22. He has the longest winning streak on a specific surface in tennis history

For over three years, Nadal won 81 straight matches before losing to Roger Federer in Hamburg. His dominance on clay ranges from 250 level tournaments to the French Open from 2004 to 2007.

Federer and Nadal in a tennis match
Federer and Nadal before a match. Image credit – Jitesh Jagadish

23. He’s had Maria Francisca Perello by his side for years

Not only has he kept his tennis team pretty much the same since turning pro, but he has had one woman by his side as well. Known as Xisca, they are finally set to tie the knot in 2019.

24. There is an asteroid named after him

When an asteroid was discovered at the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in 2003, Rafael Nadal was still an up-and-coming tennis player with very few accolades to his name. That didn’t stop them from naming 128036 after him.

25. He’s a strong supporter of Real Madrid and RCD Mallorca

Throughout his life, Nadal has been a huge supporter of Real Madrid. One of the most successful club teams in all of Europe, he has been spotted at several important matches. He also supports RCD Mallorca, as it is the home team from his island.

26. He loves other sports as well

Nadal also enjoys playing and watching golf and poker when the time allows. He plays at a competitive level in both.

Rafael Nadal – Quick facts and stats

Born3 June 1986 (age 33)
Manacor, Mallorca, Spain.
ResidenceManacor, Mallorca, Spain
Field of WorkTennis
Turned Pro2001
Height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Prize MoneyUS $122,905,214 (3rd all-time leader in earnings, Prize Money Singles & Doubles Combined)
Grand Slam Singles resultsAustralian Open W (2009, 2022)

French Open W (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)

Wimbledon W (2008, 2010)

US Open W (2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)
Olympic medal recordGold medal - singles in Beijing (2008).
Gold medal - doubles in Rio de Janeiro (2016).
AwardsLaureus Best Sports Award
Best Male Tennis Player Award
Best International Athlete
ITF World Champions for Men's Singles
ParentsFather - Sebastián Nadal Homar.
Mother - Ana María Parera.
SiblingSisters - María Isabel Nadal.
WifeXisca Perelló
Net Worth$200 million
SponsorsBabolat, Tommy Hilfiger, KIA Motors, Nike, Telefónica
Official websitehttp://rafaelnadal.com
Table last updatedOctober 11, 2020