Well, it’s been nearly three years since top Spanish tennis player Rafa Nadal has won an ATP level tournament on hard courts. Kind of a shocker right? We all know Rafa as the outright “King of Clay,” winning the majority of his titles on that surface (38 clay court titles).
Just today, Rafa won his first hard court tournament since his return from a 7 month “injury” layoff. He beat a very inspired Juan Martin Del Potro who has also been making his comeback after wrist surgery. It certainly was an impressive feat for the Spaniard who has been outspoken about the hard court surface as being “too aggressive on the body.“, to come back from the dead and beat a very strong field; having to beat Earnest Gulbis, Roger Federer, and Tomas Berdych; finishing with Del Potro. Seems almost too good to be true, yes, no?
Just how injured was Rafa Nadal really???
There has been plenty of speculation of just how severe Rafa’s knee injury was or still is. I mean, it was apparently injured to the point of taking him out of the game for just over seven months. Then to come back and reach the final of your first tournament back (granted, it was on clay), follow that up with a title the following week (also on clay), and finally win your third tournament back on the very surface you despise and say is the cause of your injuries?
It is definitely suspect that the world most recognizable knees were that severely injured. Watching him play at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open also added to my suspicion, he was moving incredibly well! Rafa would engage in some impressive baseline rallies with JMDP in the final, moving each other around having to sideline to sideline. Rafa also did his fair share of chasing down short sitters, drop shots, and even some risky sliding forehands; all without a wince of pain. Definitely not something with a knee injury that has caused you to not pick up a tennis racquet for 5 months.
Rafa’s knee or his ego injured more?
There’s also the question of his ego being more injured than his knees. After getting worked in the second round of 2012 Wimbledon Championships, the knee issue started becoming the excuse for his absence. Perhaps his ego had been damaged.
We all know his OCD like style, all water bottled lined up perfectly, equal amounts consumed from each bottle, never stepping on a court line on change of ends, never letting his tennis racquet touch the ground, and of course his pre-serve ritual (pull at underpants, pinch the nose, brush hair behind right ear, then pinch nose again, brush hair behind left ear, bounce ball, and finally serve), so perhaps losing early to a lesser opponent just completely derailed his fragile mind. He might have needed a sabbatical to regroup.
Is Rafa Nadal really back?
With his impressive win today at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open, is this the official indicator of his return? Nope.
Apparently, the Rafa knees are still questionable, he announced that he will not be playing in the Sony Open, also a Masters Series 1000 event. The strangest thing was that his announcement came just after Del Potro won the first set, awful timing I think.
Nadal missing the Sony Open next week just keeps adding to the question of where his professional tennis career is right now. I wonder if he’ll end up being and exclusive clay courter racking up as many Roland Garros titles as possible?