Former world number four Brad Gilbert has predicted Rafael Nadal’s return to the top of men’s tennis, commending his remarkable recovery after a long injury lay-off.
The 26-year-old suffered an injury last year, which kept him from participating in the US Open and Australian Open.
He made a return at the clay court of Vina del Mar in February, in which he finished as runner-up, and went on to claim Sao Paulo, Acapulco, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 India Wells and Barcelona Open titles in a span of just two months.
Almost two weeks ago, he also finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters 1000, which was just his first defeat in the last nine editions of the tournament.
However, Nadal still finds himself at the fifth spot in the
ATP rankings, and has got a stack of points to defend in the remaining European clay court swing.
Gilbert, though, is of the view that it was only a matter of time before the Mallorca native nears the summit of the rankings, and believes he could challenge the reigning world number one, Novak Djokovic, for the year-end number one spot.
He is reported to have told ATPWorldTour.com: “To me this is the meatiest part of the season.
"You've got two Masters 1000s back-to-back and then the French and Wimbledon. That's 6,000 points up for grabs over a short stretch, and what happens during this time will set the tone as to who has a shot of finishing No 1.
"Djokovic is in good position now but it still could be a very tight race.”
Nadal will, nonetheless, have the edge over his rivals in the second half of the season, as his prolonged absence since June last year will allow him to collect a plethora of points and subsequently, give him a shot to close the gap on Djokovic.
Impressed by the current form of the Spaniard, Gilbert predicted that the 11-time Grand Slam champion will soon be on the top of things, and defended his decision of taking a long break to sort out his injury woes.
He finished by saying, “What a tremendous effort to be in the final every week he's played. I love the way he goes about his business. He didn't rush back until he was close to 100 percent, and the results back up that he made the right decision.”
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