Rafael Nadal has just forty-five points to defend for the rest of the season. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Nearly a year ago, Rafael Nadal was forced to make a tough decision: play the Olympics on an injured knee or effectively shut down his season to get his body in order for the second phase of his career.
Nadal chose to skip the London Olympics, a decision he says marked the lowest moment of his seven-month injury break. So you could understand the tears he shed as he stood on Court Philippe Chatrier after defeating David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday to win his eighth French Open title, hugging the trophy and hearing the Spanish national anthem play.
Nadal’s latest Roland Garros title wasn’t about his performance in seven matches over the last two weeks. It was about a year-long comeback that put him into position to rise back to the top of the game.
After losing in the second round of Wimbledon last year and skipping the Olympics, U.S. Open, World Tour Finals and the Australian Open, Nadal returned to the tour in February. Since then he has made the final of all nine tournaments he’s played and won seven, including three ATP Masters 1000s and now a Slam. He has accumulated more rankings points in 2013 than any other player and can only go up in the rankings from here on out. Needless to say, Nadal’s full-on assault to recapture the No. 1 ranking he lost in June 2011 is on.
Here are some of our favorite photos from an eventful men’s final.