Tennis

Rafael Nadal legacy faces toughest test this month

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Nadal has a lot to prove this month
Nadal has a lot to prove this month.

As far as months go, this one couldn't get too much more important for Rafael Nadal with difficult questions being asked of the Spaniard.

The French Open has begun, and there will scarce time to rest-up before the action at Wimbledon begins later in June.

Of course every player faces the same situation, but with the way things are at the moment, Nadal will be the focus of beady eyes from around the world.

That is the attention you must expect when you are the world no.1 who can potentially become the second-most successful man in the history of the sport by the time that Wimbledon reaches its conclusion. 

You can expect even more attention when you are a faltering champion.

This French Open has a different feel about it, it is a feeling that has not been felt since 2010. 

Four years ago Nadal came into his favoured event under a cloud of doubt. It was the first time he was preparing for the tournament as a challenger rather than champion (since his first year obviously).

As Roland Garros begins this time around, the 27-year-old is the champion, but it is hard to remember a year in which his preparation has gone quite so badly.

Shocking quarter-final defeats, a laborious Madrid Open win by default and a Rome Masters loss to his closest challenger; this is alien to the supposed 'King of Clay'. 

The Majorcan-born star has eight titles to his name on the French dirt, he is aiming for a record ninth. If he achieves the feat, it will probably be his most important.

A final win in a fortnight's time will show the world that he has the chin to recover from the punches coming his way, it will prove he has - to coin a nasty football phrase - bounce-back ability.

That would only be the job half done though.

He may have 13 Grand Slam titles to his name currently, but only five of those have come away from the clay.

Look at tennis legends like Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and the still-active Roger Federer; their hauls are far more diverse across the different surfaces.

The last thing Nadal would like to be remembered as is a one-trick pony.

However, you cannot ignore the statistics, since 2010 he has only won a single major outside of Paris. It has been four years since he won at Wimbledon and five since he won in Australia.

Perhaps most worryingly though, he has only one win in two years on the English grass after shock second and first round losses in the last two years. For somebody like Nadal, that sort of record simply isn't good enough.

The world no.1 must sit down and look at things before this busy period and wonder how he would like to be remembered.

Under-par performances at both; and he could well be disregarded as nothing more than a fair-weather star. If he plays at the high-levels he is easily capable of then he can book his place as the sport's best ever player; even better than Federer.

This summer is sure to be the most crucial chapter in Rafael Nadal's legacy.

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Topics:
Tennis
Wimbledon
French Open
Rafael Nadal
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