Nadal’s Last Chance?
July 5, 2010 27 Comments
After defeating Tomas Berdych in straight sets (6-3, 7-5, 6-4) on Sunday to capture his second Wimbledon Title, Rafael Nadal dropped to the ground in joy. Following handshakes to Berdych and the referee, Nadal closed with a celebratory somersault at centre court.
Nadal’s acts of celebration truly exemplify the personality, flare, and energy that he has shown as a player and a person on the court. The passion and hustle that he plays the game of tennis with is unmatched by anyone. You just flat out aren’t going to find a more likable athlete than Rafael Nadal.
Each major tournament Rafael Nadal is getting closer, and may even be considered by some, to being thought of as one of the all-time tennis greats. We are left to wonder though if the injury issues that Nadal is constantly faced with week in and week out are finally going to catch up to him. Looking back on Rafael Nadal’s career are we going to see the 2010 Wimbledon as the climax of a very good career?
Although, this may not be Nadal’s last opportunity it is apparent that he is definitely nearing the peak of his career and his dominance across the tour.
However, tennis fans have been seeing Nadal face some injury troubles these last few years. The most notable of them and still an ongoing problem for Rafa is the knee tendinitis that forced him to sit out last year’s Wimbledon tournament.
Sean Corvin, the health and fitness educator from Premier Training speculated about a year ago that Nadal’s knees are akin to those of a 33 year olds. This may not be exactly true but it does signal that Nadal is not going to be able to have the amount of longevity that is needed to be considered best of all-time. Now I’m not saying that Nadal would be the best of all-time if he can stick around and be near the top of the rankings in the years to come, but I am saying that he would and may still be in the discussion.
Injuries are a problem for any athlete but for Nadal it poses an even bigger issue. More than any player on tour, Nadal’s game relies so much on defence, hustle, and wearing down his opponent. He loves to get into long rallies where he knows he can outlast his opponent for each point more often than not, and as the match goes on he will be the more physically fit player. However, if Nadal is not 100% healthy his game is greatly diminished, as a key aspect of his strategy is taken out of the picture.
It isn’t just the injuries that may hurt Nadal down the line, it will also be his love for the game. Another glaring problem is that Nadal can’t seem to save himself from himself. Nadal plays more matches and tournaments during the tennis season than anyone on tour and even though he stated that this year he is going to cut back on the amount of tournaments that he plays in, John Macenroe mentioned yesterday that so far he has played more matches than anyone this year. If Nadal wants to win more majors it is going to take some serious will power to overcome his need to be playing so often,
With all that being said, it must be noted that Nadal is always expanding and improving many facets of his game. Recently Nadal has added a one-handed backhand slice that was shown to be very effective against Tomas Berdych. As well, each year Nadal is putting more and more juice on his serve and yesterday he had it topping out at 127mph.
I think that another big reason that will allow at least some longevity for Nadal is that right now there looks to be no one that is going to challenge him in the next couple of years. None of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Roddick has proven that they can step into a major tournament and subsequently step up their game to take down Nadal or Roger Federer on a regular basis. Speaking of Roger Federer, at 28 it looks as though he is finally over the hill and probably won’t have a shot at winning more than a major or two down the road. Although I should mention that I felt the same way a couple of years ago and Federer just kept on going like the Energizer Bunny. Presently, Robin Soderling has emerged as the most likely candidate to consistently challenge at Majors but even he was beaten handily by Nadal in four sets this year at Wimbledon.
I can’t say for sure but I honestly don’t think that Nadal has been fully healthy at any point in time in the last couple of years. It is known around the tennis world that Nadal is one of the best clutch performers that the game has ever seen and that he can turn his game up a knotch or two when he has too. However, it is an inevitability that the injuries are going to get worse and as a consequence ramping up his game when he needs to is just not going to be enough to get him through major tournaments in the future. He needs to be healthy and it is just a matter of time before he will be unable to perform at the level that we are accustomed to seeing him at.
Currently Rafael Nadal is looking ahead to a gruelling hard court season and most importantly an attempt at his first US Open title. But what will be in the back of everyone’s mind is whether or not his best days are behind him.
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