Tennis’ big four are back – in spirit and indeed officially – and as a result the sport is better off at moment. Hopefully that trend can continue for a little while longer too.
I may be alone in this respect, but the spring months for tennis – as I wrote in an article recently – in my opinion are the worst. The Australian Open feels like an age ago, while waiting for the French Open is like waiting for your summer holiday with a slow-ticking clock in front of you.
Rafael Nadal claimed the other day that Indian Wells is one of his favourite events of the tennis calendar, and sure it’s okay, but there just isn’t the same level of excitement as the Slams. With the Paris showpiece seemingly light years away, Indian Wells doesn’t even feel like it’s building up to anything.
For this reason, the news that Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will meet at the semi-finals is both unsurprising and uninspiring – we’ve seen them play enough recently. Roger Federer will probably join them too – that’s cool, I suppose…
No, the saviour of tennis at the moment is the resurgence of good old Rafa – though lets not call him old too much.
At the time of writing this article, he is preparing to face Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells. If you are reading this upon the conclusion of this, it doesn’t matter a jot because Nadal is the true winner of this tournament, regardless of who eventually does lift the trophy up towards the searing Californian sun.
It’s not because the young Canadian star, Raonic, is too good for the Spaniard, nor is it because Nadal is not the favourite to win the overall event.
The reason why, in my eyes, Nadal is the winner already is because he has proved the doubters wrong and has shown glimpses, only glimpses, of his brilliant best in one of the bigger tournaments (not biggest, as we’ve already established).
He hasn’t beaten the biggest names yet, but Nadal has finally been able to get through the lesser-known players with apparent easer, as well as the same swagger and style that has won him legend status on his way to lifting 14 Grand Slam titles.
Having suffered a tortuous and injury-plagued 2014, there were real fears that the Majorcan-born start would never be able to return to his very best – now we can fear a little less though.
Of course, he’s not completely back yet, you certainly wouldn’t want to back him to win in Indian Wells. However, the very fact that you can now expect him to be nearing his best for the French Open again is a joyous prospect.
It’s not right that Djokovic hasn’t completed a Career Slam yet – he deserves it – but it’s really quite remarkable that Nadal could be about to deny his great rival again and head into double figures at Roland Garros.