Rafael Nadal has Australian Open doubts

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A few months ago, I wrote an article on this website predicting that Rafael Nadal would struggle to overcome his latest injury - just like Andy Murray has struggled to overcome his. Those predictions are now coming true, it would appear.

The comment boxes on various web outlets can be a harsh place and this article received it's fair share of abuse. However, it appears as though there has been some vindication.

You have to look at Nadal's latest comeback from injury in pure science terms; physics, biology, chemistry...the lot...and not from a personal point.


Here we have a 28-year-old who has been putting his body on-the-line in elite sport for most of his post-childhood life - he won his first Grand Slam as a teenager.

The Spaniard has had his fair share of injuries and the simple fact is that his advancing years will inhibit any miracle return to full health, his comeback may not be as instant as it may have been a few years ago. 

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We have now reached the point that the former world no.1, many people's favourite tennis star, is on the brink of withdrawing from the Australian Open, and who can blame him? A poor start to 2015 has got the doubters interested.


"I was playing with more nerves than usual. I knew that winning a couple of matches here will help me, so that makes me play a little bit more under more tension," said a weary Nadal after crashing out in the Qatar Open. 

"This is the third comeback of my career after injury, so we will see how it goes in a couple of months. I wanted to start well, but it was not the case today.

"I also want to play in the Australian Open which is a tournament I like a lot. I don't know if that will be the case either, but I am going to work for it. If not I will be playing at Rio and Buenos Aires (ATP Tour clay court tournaments taking place in February).

"The season is long. After coming back from injury you can't see the immediate moment, you have to look further ahead a little bit."


The strangest part of that interview is where he said of the nerves. This is a guy who has won 14 Grand Slam titles. He has done just about everything you can do in tennis, yet he is suffering with nerves in a relatively meaningless tournament.

I see  parallels with Andy Murray. The Briton had a shocker in 2014. He had his major breakthrough in 2012 and 2013 - last year was the one where he had to kick-on. Instead, he ended it on the brink of falling out of the world's top ten. 

Murray's woes started with injury. After his maiden Wimbledon title he was forced onto the sidelines with back surgery. Coming back, he was expected to explode, but a few poor results later and he seemed to lose confidence - he showed nerves too. He thought he should have been playing on a level with the big boys.


Nadal has only been missing a few months, but so much has happened in that time. The world no.3 must feel like he has everything to prove again; Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have completely run away from the field. Also, for the first time in a while, there a genuine challengers to Nadal, Djokovic and Federer's top three spots - the former is the man in danger.

Perhaps it would be best, as is being tipped, for Nadal to give the Melbourne major a miss. If he isn't playing as he would like then he will gain nothing by playing; he risks injury and reputation. Rafa has earned the right to play when he so chooses  I'm sure he would rather have the crowds see him on-form.

Murray did himself no favours towards the back-end of 2014 in a desperate pursuit of form. His punishing schedule, made up mostly of little tournaments against lower-ranking opponents, did not prepare him for the ATP FInals. The last thing Nadal needs is a defeat like what Murray experienced at the Finals in London at the hands of Federer - we all remember that. 

You also want to see the best players in the biggest tournaments, but I think it would be much better to see the King of Clay conserve himself and build confidence out of the public eye before his favoured French Open - that is what we all want to see.

Let's just hope that it isn't too late for Murray to freeze-away his own meltdown. 

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