A month ago, Rafael Nadal celebrated 16 consecutive years in the top-10, achieving the feat that will take some beating in the future. The 20-time Major champion enjoys his 817th week in the elite, earning second place on the list after leaving Jimmy Connors on 816, trailing only to Roger Federer. Yesterday, Rafa claimed the 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome, adding 1000 points to his tally and claiming the second title of the season that cements his top-10 status and keeps him safe for many more weeks and months. An 18-year-old Nadal cracked the top-10 in April 2005. Sixteen years later, the 20-time Major champion is still among the world’s leading players, celebrating the 800th consecutive top-10 week in January as the first player to achieve that! The 16-year-old Nadal entered the 2003 season ranked just outside the top-200, playing high-level tennis to pass one rival after another on the ATP ranking list.
Despite a nasty injury that halted his progress in the spring of 2004, Nadal won the first ATP title in Sopot in August and helped Spain secure the Davis Cup title at the end of the season, gathering momentum ahead of 2005. That proved to be Nadal’s first great season, reaching the Australian Open fourth round before conquering Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco on beloved clay.
Rafael Nadal is the second player with 817 weeks in the top-10, passing Jimmy Connors.
The best was yet to come for an extraordinary teenager, standing two points away from winning the Miami crown against Roger Federer and lifting the first Masters 1000 trophy in Monte Carlo a few weeks later to write history books. Hungry for more, Rafa headed to Barcelona with no rest and defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero in the best-of-five final to secure another title and additional 300 points that propelled him into the top-10 for the first time!
At 18 years and ten months, Rafa became the eighth-youngest top-10 player since the beginning of the ATP ranking in 1973, joining Aaron Krickstein, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Andrei Medvedev. Nadal has never left the exclusive group, counting one tremendous or at least reliable season after another to gather over 800 top-10 weeks in a unique milestone. In his darkest seasons in 2015 and 2016, Rafa dealt with injuries and stayed away from Major titles, struggling against the rivals from the top and barely keeping himself in the top-10. Returning at his best in 2017, Rafa has been ranked in the top-3 ever since, joining Federer on 20 Major crowns last October and seeking more records in 2021.