Rafael Nadal Lead

Rafael Nadal’s tennis career is far from over, but already, he’s established himself as one of the greatest men’s players of all time—that’s saying a lot for a guy who’s just 27 years of age.

With 12 Grand Slam titles currently under his belt, including an unprecedented eight at the French Open, Nadal has continued to exude his dominance over the world since his first major win in 2005 (with no signs of slowing down). Along the way, Rafa has built up some fierce rivalries—with guys like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic—and has been a part of some of the most memorable moments in tennis history.

As he looks to secure yet another major championship this weekend at the US Open, let’s take a moment to flash back to some of the greatest matches of Nadal’s career, and of course the footwear he brought along for the ride—we are Sneaker Report after all. Here are The Sneakers Worn for Rafael Nadal's 10 Most Memorable Matches (So Far).

Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.

RELATED: The Complete Sneaker History of Rafael Nadal at the French Open
RELATED: The 25 Most Notable Sneakers Worn by US Open Men’s Singles Champions

Nadal French Open 2006

Year: 2006
Tournament: French Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe III

Having won the French Open a year prior, Nadal returned to Roland Garros in 2006 as the favorite to repeat. It didn’t take long for him to make history yet again. With a first round win over Robin Soderling, Nadal broke Guillermo Vilas’ 29-year old record of 53 consecutive clay court wins. For the tournament, Rafa wore the Nike Air Max Breathe III—the last installment of the Breathe series before Nike rolled out the Courtballistec. Nadal would go on to beat Roger Federer in the final to earn his second Grand Slam title.

Nadal Madrid 2009

Year: 2009
Tournament: Madrid Open (semifinal)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Courtballistec 1.3

Rafael Nadal seems to have a tendency of getting into long, tough-it-out matches—most of which he wins. Well the 2009 Madrid Open was no different. Nadal’s semifinal match against Novak Djokovic lasted 4+ hours, a mark that, at the time, was the longest men’s singles three-set match in the Open era. Rafa’s shoe of choice for the match was the Nike Air Max Courtballistec 1.3 (the same shoe he won the 2009 French Open in, just in a different colorway). The Spaniard would go on to lose in the final round to Roger Federer.

Nadal French Open 2010

Year: 2010
Tournament: French Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Courtballistec 2.3

After giving up his French Open crown in 2009, the "King of Clay" re-established himself as the player to beat on the red stuff. With a win in straight sets win over Robin Soderling in the 2010 final, Nadal earned his fifth career win at Roland Garros. He also managed to reclaim the No. 1 ATP ranking with the win. Laced in the second iteration of his new go-to shoe—the Courtballistec 2.3—Nadal became the first player ever to win all three Masters 1000 clay tournaments (Monte Carlo, Rome, and Madrid) and the French Open in the same year. "Clay Slam" anyone?

Nadal Australian Open 2009

Year2009
Tournament: Australian Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II PE

In what was the longest match ever in the history of the tournament, top-ranked Rafael Nadal outlasted Fernando Verdasco 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-7(1), 6-4 in the semifinal of the 2009 Australian Open. Nadal put in over five grueling hours of work in a pair of custom Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II tennis sneakers, showing his quickness and knack for chasing down every ball that came his way. Later in the ’09 season, Nadal would go on to make the switch to the then all-new Nike Air Max Courtballistec 1.3—the first installment of the shoe he still wears today.

Nadal Rome 2005

Year: 2005
Tournament: Rome Masters (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe Free II

Rafael Nadal was just 18 years old when he found himself across the net from proven clay-court player Guillermo Coria in the final of the 2005 Rome Masters. In a match that would go down as one of the greatest in Masters tournament history, Nadal beat the Coria in a back-and-forth match that ended with a fifth set tiebreaker (6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6). At the time, the Nike Air Max Breathe Free II was the top shoe choice for many pros, including Nadal who wore a pair in the epic Rome final.

Nadal Wimbledon 2007 copy

Year: 2007
Tournament: Wimbledon (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe Cage

At the ’07 Wimbledon Championships, Nadal set out to keep Roger Federer from winning his fifth consecutive title, though it didn’t quite work out as planned for the Spaniard. In what was one of the most memorable Wimbledon finals ever seen, Rafa came up short in an epic five-setter (7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2) against his nemesis. The loss marked the second consecutive year that Nadal was defeated by Federer in the Wimbledon final. On his feet, an all-white pair of the Nike Air Max Breathe Cage—a shoe that featured a Drag-On Inject upper, along with a cage-like design for support (hence the name Cage).

Nadal French Open 2005

Year: 2005
Tournament: French Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe Free II

Following an injury-riddled season in 2004, in ’05, Nadal earned his first career Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, becoming the first teenager to do so since Pete Sampras did it back in 1990. After dropping the first set, Nadal bounced back to win the next three sets to close out Mariano Puerta 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. For his maiden French Open victory, Nadal played in the Nike Air Max Breathe Free II featuring a high-grade XDR outsole for exceptional durability.

Nadal US Open 2010

Year: 2010
Tournament: US Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Courtballistec 2.3 PE

By 2010, Nadal has already proven his dominance on the clay court, now, it was time to show the tennis world he could get it done on the hard court as well. After finally winning the only major tournament left that had eluded him thus far, Nadal became only the seventh player in history to complete a career grand slam. For the big match against Novak Djokovic, Nadal hit the court in a Volt colorway of the Nike Air Max Courtballistec 2.3. That year, Nadal won a total of six tournaments while wearing the Courtballistec 2.3, including three Grand Slam titles.

Nadal French Open 2012

Year: 2012
Tournament: French Open (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3 PE

With a win over Novak Djokovic in the final of the 2012 French Open, Rafa Nadal became the only tennis player ever to three-peat at Roland Garros two different times in his career. In the match, Nadal jumped out to an early two-sets-to-one lead before play was suspended due to a heavy down pour. Yet again, history was made—for the first time since 1973, the tournament didn’t end on a Sunday. Nadal returned to Court Philippe Chatrier the following day to close out the match and became the most decorated men’s singles player in French Open history with his seventh title. For the record-setting run, Nadal came armed in the Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3—a house favorite here at Sneaker Report when it comes to clay court sneakers. The shoe’s Lunarlon cushioning and XDR outsole served Rafa well, as he flashed his ability to own the court yet again.

Nadal Wimbledon 2008

Year: 2008
Tournament: Wimbledon (final)
Shoe: Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II

After losing to Federer in two consecutive Wimbledon finals, the third time proved to be the charm for Nadal, who finally defeated his biggest rival in a match dubbed by many as the greatest match in tennis history—also, the longest in Wimbledon history. Nadal went on to win the deciding fifth set 9-7, just as rain held up and darkness began to creep over Centre Court. It took nearly five gut-wrenching hours to get it done, but alas, Rafa had finally defeated Federer on grass. Once more, the Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II was the choice shoe for Nadal yet again.

Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.

RELATED: The Complete Sneaker History of Rafael Nadal at the French Open
RELATED: The 25 Most Notable Sneakers Worn by US Open Men’s Singles Champions

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