What a strange couple of months it has been for Rafael Nadal, maybe even the last year. The last 12 month period started bad, got worse, got worse still, had a little bit of hope, and then hit rock bottom again. This last week has given some new hope again though.
The former world No.1 has always been a dead-cert at the French Open, but the nine-time champion just wasn’t able to arrest a slide that now sees him on the verge of falling out of the world’s top ten best players.
After bowing out in the Paris quarter-finals to Novak Djokovic, his long-time foe, many have questioned where 29-year-old goes from here. He was the ‘King of Clay’ until Roland Garros ended, and it was only due to get worse on grass.
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However, in a bit of a shock result, Nadal triumphed in Stuttgart last week to take his first title on the surface since Wimbledon 2010. It does show just how far he has fallen that a victory over Viktor Troicki is greeted with a sense of surprise.
Focus now moves on to Queens and then Wimbledon. Number one on the agenda for the Spaniard, before winning titles, surely has to be improving his world ranking again. To be fair, it shouldn’t be that difficult and he has it in him to catch Djokovic on top of the tree.
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After bowing out of Wimbledon in round four last year against Nick Kyrgios, Nadal barely picked-up a racquet again in the season. There are so many ranking points to be had.
The pressure is somewhat off for him now too. At the French Open there was the expectation of an instant and miraculous return to form, and it just wasn’t going to work. Now, with that heartbreak behind him, the 14-time Grand Slam champion can slowly work on rebuilding his career.
All eyes will be on Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer again – they are the three most recent winners of SW19 and will be the bookmakers favourite. After a run of just four wins in three years, Nadal will flourish from being in the shadows.
You just wait too, with every tournament that now goes-by, Nadal’s ranking will slowly creep up and you have to expect that at some point in the next few months that he will find that level of brilliance that his fans are so used to.
You look at Federer, if he’s not the best at 33-years-old – nearly 34 – anymore, he’s definitely still in the top three. Nadal is certainly young enough to return to being the world’s best, he just needs to find away to look after those knees a bit more – his title in Germany shows that he is getting there.