During the 222 days spent injured Rafael Nadal, the owner of 12 Grand Slam titles, probably felt a tad disheartened by the type of questions most tennis pundits, who are normally so loving towards him, were asking with regard to his game.
"Will he ever be the same?” “Is this the end of his dominating epoch in the game?” Some people in the tennis fraternity even went as far as saying that his trophy laden career has run its course. Over the past seven months Nadal answered these questions by doing what comes naturally to him: winning.
Since his return in February he has been razing opponents with the coruscating style of play that fans have become so accustomed to seeing. Nobody expected Nadal to be as prosperous as he has been during this season.
He has won nine titles which includes an eighth Roland Garros crown. Many of Nadal’s detractors are of the opinion that he is only successful on his favourite clay surface. He has always had many sycophants who defended him against these accusations although there was some truth in the sour pudding.
This season though the 27-year-old Spaniard has taken it upon himself to put a proverbial sock in the mouth of his naysayers; he has done this by achieving a perfect 18-0 record on hard courts this season.
Over the past few years his game has revolved more around sitting back and hoping his opponent slips up. This game plan led to his downfall when he took on the better players on the tour, especially when he came up against his unforgiving nemesis Novak Djokovic who is not the most obliging when it comes to the bequeathing of gifts in the form of unforced
Tennis zealots have witnessed a dramatic alteration in the tactics and shot selection Nadal has chosen to implement upon his return to the game. Not since he burst onto the tennis scene has he displayed such aggressive hitting, beating his opponents into submission with his trademark forehand winners and his two-handed backhand.
Nadal has ridden into the US Open on a tsunami sized wave of confidence and it has shown. He has been formidable as ever in this year’s tournament trampling over his opponents with frightening ferocity while not dropping a set. On Saturday he marched into the 4th round of the tournament, where he will face Phillipp Kohlshreiber, by demolishing Ivan Dodig in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3. The King has indeed returned, question is, can anyone dethrone him?
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