Rafael Nadal’s first round defeat at Wimbledon back in June could have been foreseen by some as the end of an era.
Many believed that the legendary rivalry of Nadal and Federer was nearing its end, with the supremacy of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray taking over.
Nicknamed the ‘king of clay’, Nadal’s dominance on his favoured surface has never been in doubt, winning an unprecedented eight of the last nine French Open titles. But it’s away from the clay where the Spaniard’s recent form has been queried.
His astonishing first round exit to Steve Darcis at the all England club raised the question if he would ever play on grass again, as the surface clearly aggravated his on-going knee injury which kept him out of action for seven months last year.
However, in his first tournament since SW19, Nadal abruptly silenced any overhanging critics, as he stormed to his second Coupe Rogers title on the hard courts in Montreal.
On the way to his title Nadal struck down the likes of Jerzy Janowicz and more significantly world number one Djokovic, before sweeping aside home favourite Milos Raonic 6-2 6-2 in Sunday’s final.
The result lifts Nadal up to third in the ATP rankings, only behind Djokovic and Murray, despite the Spaniard missing two of the last four Grand Slams.
Nadal’s absence from last year’s US Open and Australian Open back in January mean the man from Manacor has no ranking points to defend at two of the next four majors, giving him the chance to close the gap on Djokovic and Murray, who could soon be glancing over their shoulders.
Barring Wimbledon, Nadal’s comeback from his knee injury has been quite astounding. This year the strong-minded Spaniard has played eleven tournaments, reaching ten finals and winning eight of them, including masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome and now Montreal along with his trademark French Open in Paris.
With twelve Grand Slam titles to his name Nadal is still more than capable of surpassing Rodger Federer’s seventeen majors, after the Swiss dropped out of the world’s top four for the first time since 2003 after he also bowed out in Wimbledon’s first week.
So injury exempt, Nadal looks set to once again challenge for all four Grand Slams on the tennis calendar and along with Djokovic and Murray, maybe even Federer for a while longer, tennis’ golden era looks set something quite special once again.
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