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Rafael Nadal withdraws from ATP finals with injury

The King of Clay over the years

A lot has changed since a 19-year-old Rafael Nadal became only the second man in history to win Roland Garros at the first attempt. The bulging biceps, long hair and headband remain, but the Spaniard’s sense of style has certainly changed.

The King of Clay over the years

2005Nadal went into his first French Open as an inexperienced 18-year-old and emerged a grand slam champion — beating Roger Federer in the semifinals on his 19th birthday. The 2005 season was the birth of what would go on to be Nadal’s classic look: sleeveless top and three-quarter length shorts.

The King of Clay over the years

2006By the following year, Nadal had cemented his place among tennis’ elite and was developing a fearsome reputation on clay. This time wearing a slightly less garish light blue, Nadal picked up his second consecutive French Open title by becoming the first man to beat Roger Federer in a grand slam final.

The King of Clay over the years

2007In 2007, the then 20-year-old Nadal’s status as the ‘King of Clay’ was sealed. Defeat to Federer at the Masters Series in Hamburg ended an 81-match unbeaten streak on clay, which remains a men’s Open Era record today. At that year’s French Open, Nadal opted for the reverse of 2006’s top-bandana combo — this time with matching trainers to boot.

The King of Clay over the years

2008A year later, Nadal opted for a variation on his debut French Option look, this time sporting an all-green combo. Nadal reached world No. 1 for the first time in his career in 2008, helped by his fourth consecutive Roland Garros title — matching Bjorn Borg’s record of consecutive trophies, while also becoming only the seventh man to win a grand slam without dropping a set.

The King of Clay over the years

2009Nadal’s first dramatic transformation came in 2009. Gone were the sleeveless shirts and three-quarter lengths, in came the sleeves and fluorescent, clashing colors. Perhaps it was the sleeves restricting the powerful arms (or maybe a knee injury), but Nadal suffered the first of only two French Open defeats. Despite a shock fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling, Nadal set a record of 31 consecutive wins at Roland Garros.

The King of Clay over the years

2010In 2010, Nadal bounced back from the 2009 disappointment with a daring multicolored number. He went on to exact revenge on Soderling, beating him in the final after the Swede had upset Federer in the quarterfinals. Federer’s failure to reach the semis meant Nadal regained the world No. 1 spot, while it was also the second time he won the French Open without dropping a set.

The King of Clay over the years

2011The following year, Nadal dialed down the brightness, instead choosing to return to one of his earliest Roland Garros styles. And it worked — he maintained his No. 1 ranking throughout the clay court season and beat perennial rival Federer in the final.

The King of Clay over the years

2012Perhaps in an attempt to gain the upper hand on opponents by blending into the clay, Nadal opted for an orange-ish-red look for the first time at the French Open. It appeared to work, as Nadal dropped just 30 games in the first five rounds, before beating Djokovic in four sets in the final to claim his seventh Roland Garros title and surpass Borg as the tournament’s most successful player.

The King of Clay over the years

2013The 2013 French Open was the debut of Nadal’s latest wardrobe change: the short shorts. In an all-Spanish final, Nadal defeated David Ferrer in straight sets — although bizarrely dropped from fourth in the world to fifth after his victory.

The King of Clay over the years

2014Perhaps a sign of entering into his late 20s, Nadal’s colors switched from fluorescent to more mellow tones. Despite being hampered by injuries and suffering surprise defeats early in the clay court season, Nadal grinded out arguably his most impressive Roland Garros victory. Another victory in the final against Djokovic took him to 14 grand slams (level with Pete Sampras) and it was his fifth straight French Open triumph.

The King of Clay over the years

2015Nadal’s struggle to find form continued into 2015’s clay court season, dropping outside of the world’s top five for the first time since 2005. Looking like an athletic version of the Cookie Monster, Nadal crashed out of the French Open in the quarterfinals to Djokovic. It ended his 39-match unbeaten run and marked just his second defeat on the Parisian clay.

The King of Clay over the years

2016The following year, the shorts got even shorter and the two-tone top returned as Nadal exited the French Open in the third round — although this time it was a wrist injury that defeated him. Despite the disappointment, there was another milestone for Nadal as he became only the eighth man to reach 200 grand slam wins.

The King of Clay over the years

2017Nadal debuted his strong blue look against Benoit Paire in the first round and the King of Clay went on to complete “‘La Decima” of 10 Roland Garros titles.

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