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Glory Days: On this day: Rafael Nadal dethrones Roger Federer and becomes No. 1

In 2005, the 19-year-old Rafael Nadal became the best teenager since the days of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Boris Becker. Also, the Spaniard established himself as the second-strongest link on the Tour behind Roger Federer.

Nadal followed Federer on 11 ATP titles that year, including Roland Garros and four Masters 1000 crowns. The Spaniard earned enough points to finish the season far ahead of Andy Roddick and others, starting the ultimate quest for the world no.

1 position. Nadal worked hard to improve his game on hard and grass in the next two seasons, reducing the gap to the Swiss, who stood above between 2004 and 2007. After four brilliant years that brought him impressive records, Roger started to slow down in 2008.

He had to step down from the ATP throne on August 18 when Rafa passed him and conquered the tennis world at 22! The Spaniard had to wait until the clay season to grab the first title that year after losing in the final of Chennai and Miami and the semi-final of the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

Rafael Nadal became world No. 1 for the first time in August 2008.
As usual, no one was there to stop Rafa in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Hamburg and Roland Garros. He secured his fourth straight title in Paris and mounted pressure on Roger.

Nadal’s grass game had already been very high after two Wimbledon finals in the previous years. He made an extra step on the fastest surface in 2008 to topple Novak Djokovic at Queen’s and Roger Federer in that memorable Wimbledon final to get within that no.

1 position. No one could halt Rafa that summer, and he conquered Toronto for the 29th straight victory. Nadal became world no. 1 when Federer suffered an unexpected loss to Ivo Karlovic in the third round. On August 11, Roger was still 25 points ahead of Nadal.

However, the Spaniard would become the 24th world no. 1 in history following Monday. Meanwhile, Nadal won the Olympic singles gold medal in Beijing after beating Fernando Gonzalez to celebrate two outstanding achievements in two days!

Rafa went on to reach the US Open semi-final, and despite entering only two more events by the end of the season, he finished as the year-end no. 1 for the first time. Nadal ended Roger’s reign that had started in 2004 and stayed on the ATP throne until July 2009.

At 36, Rafa is still among the world’s best players, 14 years after becoming world no. 1 for the first time. Nadal could become world no. 1 again this season, leading an ATP Race ahead of the US Open and defending nothing in the rest of the season.

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