Many people must look at Roger Federer’s win-less run at Grand Slams and predict that the Swiss star must be in great pain at being unable to extend his lead in the all-time Grand Slam titles list. Who knows if he feels the same way, one man whom it does not or will not effect is Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard superstar, a former world no.1, has stumbled at a fresh hurdle this week at the Queens tournament. Having stayed away from the Wimbledon warm-up event for four years, it was wasn’t a happy return for the 2008 winner.
Nadal failed to get past round one after coming unstuck against the unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov in three sets at their encounter in London.
Having slipped to a decade-low world no.10 position, the 29-year-old must have thought he had found a quick path to recovery after winning in Stuttgart last week. However, this new shock leaves him ruefully out of form as Wimbledon dawns.
Again, Nadal’s performances at SW19 in the past contributed to him being the world renowned star he is today, but things have slipped on the English grass too – he has won just four matches in three years.
It certainly doesn’t look as though Nadal will be able to add to his 14 Grand Slam titles and close the gap on Federer on top of the tree. Whether it’s just form, confidence or injury – things aren’t right or him just now.
Nadal, however, is determined that he won’t let this slump taint what has been a fantastic career. He is certainly not taking his past successes for granted: “I’ve won enough Grand Slams in my career. Fourteen Grand Slams is enough. I will keep trying my best,” he said prior to his defeat at Queens.
The loss, played-out in front of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho – another person with a sports winners’ personality – didn’t shake Nadal’s belief that he just wanted to start enjoying his tennis a bit more either.
“This week I lost an opportunity but my feeling, my thoughts, are no different today than yesterday,” he said after losing to Dolgopolov.
“I am playing better than before and enjoying my tennis more on court than before. I will keep going, keep practising hard. I hope to be ready to play well at Wimbledon.”
Although Nadal remains unmoved – in public at least – over his recent failures, his main rivals will be jumping for joy that such a major weapon is not yet fully operational; just like Star Wars, but who will be the hero in this story?
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer will be the favourites heading into Wimbledon, and although they are dotted around Europe at the moment, they will soon come together in what is sure to be a close and intriguing tournament.
If only they had Nadal’s attitude; none of them would be worried about the competition as long as they enjoy their tennis in London… Somehow I think the trio will be far too confident and expectant to play down their own chances.