The back injury Rafael Nadal sustained in the final of the Australian Open has yet again highlighted the great worry regarding his fitness.
Not for the first time, the Spaniard’s assault on a Grand Slam has ended with a possible spell on the sidelines. He missed last year’s Australian Open due to a stomach virus that also delayed his return from a knee injury.
It is almost inevitable that he shall eventually better Roger Federer’s record of 18 Slams, mostly due to his dominance on the clay courts at the French Open. It is a tournament where he has won seven titles in eight attempts.
But the small chunk of doubt people possess over his ability to match – or better – Federer’s record is down to the fact injury consistently follows him.
There was a spell, prior to his stunning 2013, in 2012 where there was talk of retirement. Talk that the man who gave everything could give no more.
His playing style – a combination of gruelling strength and stamina – is his biggest hindrance. It has a hugely negative effect on the body, and as a result could spell the end of his career in the not too distant future.
The loss to Wawrinka will rankle with the world number one as perhaps his biggest disappointment. It is matched for emotion only by the disappointment of being unable to defend his Wimbledon title in 2009 a year on after winning it for the first time.
He resisted the Swiss well, especially in the third set which he won 6-3, but it was to be another final missed. It was his sixth defeat in a Grand Slam final and second on Australian shores.
Further light on his latest injury should be shed in the coming days. Nadal, his camp and his fans will be hoping it will not ruin yet another year of sporting action the way it ruined his final.
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