Tennis Elbow: Nothing but a number
January 7, 2013 · Print This Article
Welcome to the second season of Tennis Elbow. Once again in 2013, the column will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders what comes next for Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal finished the 2012 season with a loss in June, an anomaly for a player of his stature. On June 28, 2012, he took the court against unknown Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon. Nadal lost the match, and it turns out that it was the last match of his season.
By all accounts, Nadal enjoyed a frustrating season in 2012. Because of injuries, he was limited to only 48 matches. He won 42 of these, and yet his four titles also top his 2011 haul. Just as important, Nadal managed to finally win a match against his nemesis of 2011 in alpha male Novak Djokovic. Plus, there’s an argument to be made that of all the players on Tour, it’s Nadal who came closest of winning multiple Grand Slam titles. Indeed, he was within a few inches of winning the 2012 Australian Open against Djokovic, and won Roland Garros. Then, Nadal also breezed through the clay court season as he tends to do every year, capturing every title but for the Mutua Madrid Open played on blue clay.
The 26-year-old turned professional in 2001 and broke through around 2003. Already, he played a brand of tennis that was unique, one that relied on strength, energy, and physical might. Nadal wasn’t always more gifted technically than his opponents, but he always seemed to be tougher than them. Right away, it was obvious that he could become one of the better clay court specialists. The question, then, was whether his body could sustain the punishment he inflicts to it when he plays tennis.
Since, he’s expanded on his game to the point that he’s captured the career Grand Slam. Though clay remains his best surface by far, he’s among the best on all surfaces. To do it, he still relies on his knees.
But that’s the past, of course.
What has Nadal planned for an encore in 2013? Well not much, or at least not for a while. Indeed, the Spaniard withdrew from the Melbourne tournament he came so close of winning a year ago. For six months, it was a broken knee keeping him off the courts. Now it’s a stomach bug.
These are the breaks, even for one of the greatest tennis players of all time. It’s too bad, but the ATP World Tour waits for no one–not even Nadal.
It’s really sad, because professional tennis is at a much better place with Nadal active and healthy. Maybe he misses Australia, but hopefully it’s in order to play at all other three major tournaments. That said, what happens for the Australian Open winner? Is there some sort of asterisk, because the Spaniard was missing in action? Should there be one if, God forbid, an injury keeps Nadal out for even longer and through Roland Garros?
Well, no. That’s not how tennis works. There’s no asterisk over the 2009 Roland Garros tournament–there’s only a teary-eyed Roger Federer who has just completed a career Grand Slam after making the most of a labouring Nadal. In the same way, there’s no asterisk over the 2012 US Open–there’s only everyone’s second favourite player Andy Murray somehow getting over the hump.
Age is nothing but a number, except in Nadal’s case where there’s so much behind his age of 26. He might never play like Federer does when he’s 31. But let’s hope that he can play like he did at the age of 27.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG