Last year, Rafael Nadal had two biggest records - he finally secured the number 1 ranking and set the record for the longest match seen in the Australian Open at 5 hours and 14 minutes, playing against Fernando Verdasco.

This year, he hopes to break more records by winning his 10th singles Grand Slam. More importantly, if he does succeed, he will be the only player in three decades to hold all four major Grand Slams - Wimbledon Championship, Roland Garros, the United States Open and the Australian Open.

He is one of the top contenders at the Australian Open, unanimously the favorite of bookmakers, fans and even his arch rival - Roger Federer.

WHO IS NADAL?

His fans call him 'Rafa'. Many can quote statistics of his career that has almost spanned a decade - which speaks a lot about the talent and dedication of the 24-year old.

He held his first racquet at the age of 3, when his uncle Toni Nadal, a former professional tennis player, introduced him to tennis after recognizing his natural talent.

Even as Rafa went on winning several tournaments, starting at the age of eight, he also played football, a sport that was more popular in Spain.

I carried on playing football as well as tennis, but slowly played more and more tennis with my uncle. But I still preferred football. That was my real love when I was a young boy, Nadal said in an interview with the Times in 2010.

Eventually, he chose to pursue tennis full time, turning pro at the age of 15.

Two years later, he had defeated Roger Federer, a Swiss professional tennis player.

Much of Nadal's career reads like a record book, with many of the mentions being for the 'youngest' player on record to achieve certain feats.

Rafa credits much of his success story to his family. The Spanish tennis federation offered to relocate Nadal to Barcelona when he was 14, to help his training better. But his family turned them down, not wanting to disrupt his education.

On court, Rafa is known to be fierce, known for the sheer power by which he defeats his opponents. He is known to be an excellent defender and aggressive on court.

Off court, however, friends call him humble and fans appreciate him for his humility.

The Nadal personality stories that circulate among tournament fans are all variations on a single theme: the young man is educado, as they say in Spanish, not so much educated in the formal sense (Nadal left conventional schooling after he turned pro at 15), but courteous, respectful, raised by a family with its priorities in order, the New York Times said in a story in June 2009.

The people close to Rafa state that much of what he is today is because of that decision to stay closer to home. Rafa's uncle continues to be a part of his coaching till date, and also is supposed to keep the world's best tennis player's feet more on the floor.

It is said that his uncle also issued an ultimatum about throwing a tantrum on court. Perhaps it is that threat or Rafa's inbuilt humility but he has never been known for flinging his racket across the floor or throwing a tantrum like many players of his stature.

Rafa continues to call Majorca, where he was born, as home despite the divorce of his parents in 2009.

Despite his humble beginnings and soft nature off-court, it is Rafa's on-court aggressiveness that most sponsors aim for.

Nadal endorses several products like Nike, L'Homme Sport Cologne and the latest - the new face of Emporio Armani Underwear and Armani Jeans. He replaces football player Cristiano Ronaldo in Armani.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Fans and bookies are watching every step of Rafa at the Australian Open. Despite spectacular performances at the previous three major tournaments, Rafa seems to be slowing down.

Fever hit Nadal were the openings of most headlines during the Qatar Open earlier this month.

Nikolay Davydenko, the defending champion, beat Nadal, who was cited to be unusually sluggish due to his fever.

Davydenko said that Nadal was not in his best form, stating that I don't know but he seems different after the match.

Nadal won against Marin Cilic, clearing his way to reach the last eight at the Australian Open. The match proved that he was mostly over the virus he had been fighting in recent weeks.

He said that today was the first time that he felt perfect physically.

Meanwhile, most fans hope for yet another fabled Nadal-Federer face-off. Federer is in better form and shape than Nadal, particularly after the latter's bout with the flu.

Currently, the question that remains on everyone's mind - will the Swiss Roger Federer be the one to stop Nadal from achieving the 'Rafa Slam' this year and breaking yet another record?