Tennis

Rafa's remarkable road back to the top (2013)

Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT) March 14, 2016
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Despite his six-month absence because of a knee injury, Rafael Nadal was at the forefront of some supporters' minds when the 2013 Australian Open took place without him. The Spaniard's withdrawal meant he had dropped out of the top four for the first time since 2005. Quinn Rooney/Getty Image
In the distant setting of Chile, Nadal returned to action in the doubles event at the ATP Vina del Mar on February 5 2013 after 222 days away. He duly reached the final of the singles, only to lose to little-known Argentinian Horacio Zeballos. Martin Bernetti/Getty Images
Days after losing in Chile, Nadal was able to celebrate his first trophy since winning the 2012 French Open. Playing on his preferred clay surface in Brazil, he beat Zeballos' compatriot David Nalbandian to begin his march back to the top of the rankings. Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images
The trophies continued in 2013 as Nadal followed up his Brazil success by winning in Mexico and then at Indian Wells too. His third final clash with an Argentinian resulted in victory over Juan Martin del Potro as Nadal became the player with the most Masters 1000 wins in history. "Seriously, it's impossible to have a better comeback, no?" he said. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Real Madrid soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos watched Nadal beat compatriot David Ferrer, despite being just two points from defeat in their 2013 Madrid Open quarterfinal. Nadal went on to beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in his seventh consecutive final since his comeback. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Nadal won his first major of 2013 in Paris, after beating Ferrer in the final to win his eighth French Open. The real decider came in the semifinal where the Spaniard came back from a break down in the fifth set to beat Novak Djokovic in a clash that lasted four hours 37 minutes. Martin Bureau/Getty Images
Nadal's spectacular return came crashing to a halt when he lost to Belgium's 135th-ranked Steve Darcis on the opening day of Wimbledon 2013 -- the Spaniard's second successive humbling at the London event after losing to Lukas Rosol round two in 2012. The deserved defeat was Nadal's first in the opening round of a grand slam. Mike Hewitt/Getty Image
In a scenario barely imaginable at the start of the year, Nadal claimed his second major of 2013 when he beat Djokovic in the U.S. Open final. The title took his grand slam tally to 13 -- just four fewer than Roger Federer's all-time record. Clive Brunskill/Getty Image
Having steadily climbed back up the rankings throughout 2013, Nadal returned to the No. 1 spot in unwanted circumstances -- after Tomas Berdych retired through injury in the semifinals of October's China Open. "(This is) one of the best years of my career without any doubt," Nadal said later. "It sure is special to be back to the top position of the rankings after more than a half year without playing tennis." Mark Ralston/Getty Images
Boasting a career grand slam in addition to an Olympic gold medal and success in the Davis Cup teams event, the sole major title to elude Nadal is the ATP World Tour Finals. The 27-year-old beat Wawrinka in his second round-robin match to ensure he finished 2013, one of his most memorable years, as world No. 1 for the third time, having done so in 2008 and 2010. Jan Kruger/Getty Image