Rafael Nadal: A career defining year

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January 14 2013 – The first grand slam of the year was about to get underway down in Australia.

Andy Murray was hoping to follow up his success in New York with a second major title. Roger Federer was world number 2, and Novak Djokovic was looking to become the first person in the open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

But there was one name missing. One name that had failed to make it into the draw. Rafael Nadal, the then world number four had withdrawn from the tournament, officially, because of a stomach bug, but many experts believed that his Achilles’ heel, his left knee had caused him to withdraw from the London 2012 Olympics as well as the 2012 US Open were to blame.

A cloud of doubt began to grow over the Spanish titans head. After his infamous five set shock defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon, people even began to wonder whether we would ever see Nadal back to his best once more.

Fast forward nine months, and the cloud that loomed ominously over the Spaniard's head is no more. Instead, a crown is the only thing that sits above him.

With an unbeaten 22 match winning streak on hard courts this year, an eighth French Open title, and most recently, after defeating Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows, a second US open title, the only whispers that have been spoken about Nadal, are just how many more major titles can he win?

The emotion was evident after winning the title on that Monday night at Flushing Meadows, Nadal dropped to the ground, tears streaming down his face, and who can blame him?

It marked what will go down not only as one of the greatest comebacks a tennis player has ever made, but one of the greatest comebacks sport has ever seen.

Ten tournament wins, with just three losses across a seven month span, one of his greatest years to date.

With 13 Grand Slam titles to his name, the world number two now has Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles in his site.

But for a career ending injury it seems as if he will surpass that record and overtake Sampras as the man with the second most Major titles ever. Then he can turn his attention to catching one of his biggest rivals, Roger Federer.

With Federer seemingly looking past his best many doubt the Swiss maestro can claim another Grand Slam title. But where can the five titles come from in order for Nadal to surpass him? Of course, the French has always been his favourite.

The king of clay will undoubtedly be the favourite to continue his dominance at Roland Garros for many years to come, and if, like this season, he can remain the King of hard courts as well, we could soon see Nadal becoming the first man to claim more than 17 major titles.

Despite the season he has had, there are still questions that Nadal needs to answer. Wimbledon - a tournament where, possibly to the surprise of many people, Nadal has lost more times than he has won over the course of the last two years.

It was evident in his loss to Steve Darcis during the first round that his knee was troubling him. Instead of chasing every ball like a rampaging bull like we have seen so often over the years, he looked uncomfortable moving around on grass.

Of course, his lengthy clay court season wore him down completely. The question remains, can he balance his beloved clay court season, with the grass court season, in order to win another illustrious Wimbledon title?

Only time will tell whether he can or not, but after what he has achieved this year, it will no longer come as a surprise as to what the Spaniard can achieve, and we can almost be sure that the record books will be rewritten once more before he decides to end his reign.

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