Nadal’s comeback will be worth the wait
Roger Federer is left to congratulate his Spanish rival once again AAP Image/Martin Philbey
The name Rafael Nadal is synonymous with success and high expectations.
Here is a player who easily makes the list of top five players of all time in his sport, having achieved almost everything the sport has to offer at the age of 26.
Despite being dominated by Novak Djokovic in 2011, Nadal, seemed to have gotten a grip on the Novak conundrum in early 2012. He won four titles (Monte Carlo, Indian Wells Masters, Rome Masters and the French Open) and finished runner-up in the Australian Open.
However, his surge came to an abrupt halt at Wimbledon when he was knocked out in the second round and the subsequent knee injury that followed has kept him out of action since June 2012.
Tennis has missed the presence of the Spaniard on court for so long now and the entire tennis fraternity eagerly awaits his return to action this month.
But questions are now surfacing in regards to whether he can recapture the form and success he has enjoyed so far in his career.
Well, the Spaniard is a perfectionist. This is evident from the way he goes about his routine prior to a match, the way he places his water bottles on court and everything about his game.
But despite being one of the toughest competitors in the sport, it might take him at least six months before he can get back to the level we are accustomed to seeing him perform at.
There’s a huge difference in being ‘fit’ and being ‘match fit’.
Del Potro suffered a career-threatening wrist injury in 2010 that saw his ranking plummet from number four to 485, and it took him nearly a year to break back into the top ten.
The Argentine’s example illustrates how arduous it is to regain form after a lengthy injury lay-off. One can only hope Nadal doesn’t suffer the same fate.
The fact that he’s making his long-awaited comeback on his beloved clay surface does hold him in good stead, and a couple of good wins first-up could do wonders to his confidence.
But if he struggles on clay, 2013 could probably be Djokovic’s best opportunity to pocket his first French Open title and complete the ‘Career Grand Slam’, ala Federer and Nadal.
For the sake his unpredictable knees, it might be worthwhile for Nadal to veer away from his intensely physical style and adopt a more ergonomic approach to the game to prolong his career.
Of course, that’s easier said than done as his success over the years has been due to his ability to bully his opponents with brute force.
With the famed big three – Novak, Federer and Murray – all in sublime form, Nadal (currently world number five) has his work cut out for him in the next few months.
He will have to put in some serious hard yards to challenge the trio; not to forget the chasing pack of Tsonga, Ferrer and Del Potro.
People are writing off the champion Spaniard but if he could bounce back from a string of seven consecutive defeats to Djokovic, including the epic Australian Open final loss in 2012, he is capable of overcoming any obstacle.
Who knows? We might just witness a much-improved Nadal in the next couple of months.
How wonderful would that be for tennis?
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