Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rafael Nadal, a year of glorious uncertainties!

It was 28th June 2012, 4th day of Wimbledon championship, Rafael Nadal to play his second round match against no 100 Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic. Nobody would have expected this result that the great Spaniard and 11 times Grand Slam winner will go down against a no 100.  But somethings are not under your control, he was limping in final and fifth set and may be Rosol took advantage of that but Nadal did not make an excuse and congratulated Rosol after the loss. Many joked around then that Nadal’s is only a clay courter and not good in grass or hard court?

Well that really was a shocker for many of us as he had never lost to a player of 100 or below rank in any grand slam events before. To get his mind right he took few days off from Tennis and went for holidays. He was still good enough that he was chosen the flag bearer of Spain for Summer Olympics in London but citing knee injury he withdrew from London Olympics. As the date drew closer for US Open he announced that he is withdrawing from the tournament as he hasn’t fully recovered. So 28th June was the last time he played a match in 2012. Many of us believed that it will be hard for him to make a comeback and will be even harder to reach at the top as Andy Murray has also started winning slams but as you look back now it is nothing less than a miracle.

He started 2013 with ATP tournament in Vina del mar in Chile in his favorite surface after 222 days injury lay off since his defeat in Wimbledon. He participated both in singles and doubles event there, doubles with Argentinean Juan Monaco. He reached the final in both the events before losing to Horacio Zeballos in 3 sets in singles and to Lorenzi/ Starace in straight sets in doubles. He bounced back and won Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian wells (Hard court). Then he lost to Djokovic in Monte Carlo in clay and failed to claim his 9th Monte Carlo title. He then won Barcelona, Madrid and Rome and then came his first slam of the year and the favorite one in May. To get his 8th French Open title and defend his title he has to get past top ranked Novak Djokovic in semifinal which wasn’t an easy one. But then nothing comes easy in life. He won the semifinal in style beating Djokovic in epic 5 sets where fifth sent stretched to 9-7. And after that beating David Ferrer wasn’t that difficult against whom he had 19-4 record in his favor and became first man to get 8 French Open titles.

Now Rafael Nadal was winning almost everything but then came Wimbledon. This time he lost in the very first round to 135 ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium. Before coming to Wimbledon he hasn’t played a single grass court match and may be he wasn’t prepared well enough and that led to his first round loss, worst than that of 2012. Tennis pundit started saying that Nadal’s 2013 season is over as there are no more clay court events. But that man never looked down. And he won Montreal and Cincinati (Both Hard court tournaments) and everybody started looking Rafael Nadal as hot favorite for US open which he missed in 2012. He won that in style dropping just one set in the entire tournament in the final against Novak Djokovic.

Just after winning his second US open title he flew to Spain to help his team in Davis Cup. Then in China he lost to Djokovic in final of China Open and Juan Martin Del Potro in semifinal in Shanghai Rolex Masters. Before losing to Djokovic in final  in China Open he defeated Fabio Fognini in 3 sets and if you have seen this match you will know how fierce fighter Nadal is. He came back once from 2-6 0-3[15-40] and then 2-6 1-4[30-40] when Italian was serving really well.

Before heading to the last tournament (World Tour final) of the season he lost to compatriot David Ferer in Semifinal in BNP Paribas Mastes in Paris but these results ensured that if Nadal wins two matches at year ending World Tour Finals he will be ranked 1 in the year end. Nadal defeated all 3 in his group ( David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Thomas Berdych) and then won the semi final against arch rival Roger Federer and he just dropped one set in all of these 4 matches before losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final. It would have been a fitting end of the glorious 2013 but then some things are not meant to be.  This single trophy is still left to be kissed by him and in a way is good to keep him motivated and hungry to do well in this event in the future.

When in the start of the year he himself wasn’t sure whether he will be able to make a comeback, he finished the year with 75-7 (91.46% winning percentage) with 10 titles including 2 Grand Slam titles. That says a lot about this man’s commitment and passion for the game.

2014 is going to be a good year as Roger Federer has shown some class at the end of the year and 2 times Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will be making his come back as well.

Waiting for Australian Open’14. Till then Vamos Rafa!