Former Grand Slam champion Gustavo Kuerten thinks Rafael Nadal won’t add another major to his 14 slam haul, claiming that persistent fitness issues have caused irreversible damage to his game.
The 39-year-old believes that getting the better of Novak Djokovic in Grand Slam encounters was now a task too much for Nadal and that the Spaniard doesn't have it in him to beat the reigning world No.1 even on his beloved French Open turf.
Nadal has endured a calamitous year so far, having fallen to seventh in the ATP rankings and failing for the first time in over ten years to record a Grand Slam win in a year.
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The Mallorca native could only manage quarter-final showings in this year’s Australian and French Open competitions, while experiencing second and third round exits in Wimbledon and the US Open, respectively.
The European clay swing, often being Nadal’s launching pad to kick-start his dominance in a season, also depicted a sorry story for him this year, as he went trophy-less in it for the first time in over a decade.
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Tricky time ahead
Though Nadal is still upbeat of his chances of staging a strong comeback - and to reinstall himself amongst the game’s heavyweights - Kuerten does not share his optimism.
The former Brazilian tennis star feels Nadal’s glory days are now over and dismissed the idea of him disturbing his tally of 14 majors.
He stated: “It's unlikely enough to see Rafa being World No 1 again. The chances to see him win another Roland Garros title are less. It's rather unlikely for him to win another Grand Slam title, due to his tennis level against the other guys. If his level is not at 100%, there is nothing he can do.
"I compare his situation to mine. After the first surgery, I didn't feel pain but I didn't run well and this was a problem. If I couldn't support well the foot, my chance decreased of about 15% or 20%. His obstacle is Djokovic and he has to beat him in the Slam tournaments, where Nole is the favorite."
Pundits and analysts have been proven wrong in the past in their assessments of Nadal, discounting his chances of winning slams owing to myriad injury setbacks.
And Kuerten admitted that he was one of them, but said his latest appraisal is not just based on the Spaniard’s fitness issues.
He added: "In 2013 I didn't think he could come back the way he did. He has to give himself a little hope. The guy is from another planet. You can't say that he's finished because he wins only 2-3 titles, but sometimes you're almost finished when you see the results you achieve in the Grand Slams.”
Nadal is yet to secure qualification for the World Tour Finals. He is currently ranked seventh in the ATP Race to London.