2017 French Open - Day Thirteen

Rafael Nadal: A Photographer's Favorite Shots

The leaps. The strokes. The celebrations. A photographer relives Nadal's 12 years of French Open greatness.

Celebrated tennis photographer Clive Brunskill has been following—and shooting—Rafael Nadal for 15 years. During that time, he has shot Nadal at countless tournaments—including Rafa's 16 Grand Slam wins, and a record 10 French Open titles—but also for commercials and in private sessions. It's fair to say that Brunskill knows Nadal as few photographers do. Here, he looks back in time—and his own impossibly rich archive—to share his favorite images of the "King of Clay" in action at Roland Garros.

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS Clive Brunskill/Getty Images DRESSED FOR SUCCESS "From the Capri pants to the sleeveless shirts, Rafa's signature look was certainly different than other players. In this case," says Brunskill of his 2007 picture, "the lack of sleeves made for a great picture, revealing the chiseled source of the strength that made him so unbeatable." BETWEEN US Clive Brunskill/Getty Images BETWEEN US "After years of working with Rafa on private photo shoots in his hometown of Mallorca, I had gotten to know him very well," says Brunskill. "Here, I had stepped away from the large pack of photographers during the 2013 trophy presentation and shouted to get his attention. He turned, saw me, and gave a quick wink, making this picture a special one." BIG REACH Clive Brunskill/Getty Images BIG REACH "I love this angle — totally eye level with the court, sitting low in the photographer's pit behind the base line," says Brunskill of this moment from 2012. "This picture speaks to the incredible court coverage Rafa has had his entire career." SWEET REVENGE Clive Brunskill/Getty Images SWEET REVENGE "Among all of Rafa’s French Open wins, his reaction after championship point against Robin Soderling in 2010 is among my favorites," says Brunskill. "After being upset by the Swede the year before, Rafa got his revenge with a straight-set victory to capture his milestone fifth title at Roland Garros. The pure joy will forever stick with me." IN AND OUT OF THE LIGHT Clive Brunskill/Getty Images IN AND OUT OF THE LIGHT "It's called 'magic light' — when the late-afternoon sun skims off a player as it sets below the stadium. The time window is barely 20 minutes so you have to get lucky — like I did here, catching a glowing Rafa as he fires a blistering running forehand to Austria's Jurgen Melzer in their 2010 semi-final." RARE ACCESS Clive Brunskill/Getty Images RARE ACCESS "I love this image from 2017, as it’s taken somewhere we as photographers are not usually allowed to go," Brunskill says of the tunnel area that leads directly to the clay. "Rafa always leaps high into the air just before making his entrance on to the court. I was very fortunate to find myself in this position — and also lucky that he was comfortable with me being so close to him before playing a Grand Slam semi-final!" SHADOW PLAY Clive Brunskill/Getty Images SHADOW PLAY "I love the shape and shadow of this image. Rafa, looking as graceful as ever as he stretches for a backhand against Fabio Fognini in 2013." ALL ABOUT THE EYE CONTACT Clive Brunskill/Getty Images ALL ABOUT THE EYE CONTACT "Rafa's bid for a second straight title in 2011 almost ended in the first round, as American John Isner pushed him to a tight fifth set," Brunskill remembers. "I like to think he was looking back at me when he finally closed out the marathon match, but I was positioned right below his dad in the stands." OVERCOME WITH EMOTION Clive Brunskill/Getty Images OVERCOME WITH EMOTION "La Decima! This remains one of the most amazing moments I’ve witnessed in my 35 years shooting sports. The ‘King of Clay’, one of the world’s most supreme athletes, overcome with emotion after winning his 10th career French Open title." GAME, SET, MATCH, CELEBRATION Clive Brunskill/Getty Images GAME, SET, MATCH, CELEBRATION "In all of the epic battles between Rafa and Novak Djokovic, this was probably Rafa's greatest escape as he somehow fought back from down a break in the final set of the 2013 semi-final. What I remember most was the unbearable heat and his celebratory leap after match point." TOGETHER AGAIN Clive Brunskill/Getty Images TOGETHER AGAIN "I found shooting this 2017 image a very emotional experience. After 15 years of photographing his tournaments, commercials, and private photoshoots, I was so happy for him on this day. Nobody deserved the moment more than him — a first-class athlete and human being. Thanks for the memories Rafa!"



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