The much anticipated return of the King of Clay was met with mixed reviews as he entered his first week of competitive tennis in seven months. The ongoing knee niggles that have plagued Rafael Nadal throughout his career eventually caught up with him and forced him to the sidelines, our last unsavoury memory of him being his shock exit from Wimbledon in June at the hands of virtual unknown Lucas Rosol.
Re-introducing himself back on the scene, the Spaniard worked his way into the final of the VTR Chile Open last week, enjoying the creature comfort of the clay courts while not dropping a set on his road there. His attempt to secure his 37th clay court title at Vina del Mar however was brought to a halt when his vastly underwhelming performance collided with a solid showing by eventual winner, Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos.
Not a great end to what was a relatively sound return to the game, his play was not reflective of the Rafa of old, and each play appeared to be met with hesitancy uncharacteristic of the man famous for never letting the ball die. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, some will be quick to say he’s lost his touch, others that he’s just getting back into the swing of things.
…he enters 2013 at number 5 in the world rankings…
A quick rebuttal to the naysayers would be that despite being out of the frame for half of last year, he enters 2013 at number 5 in the world rankings, an amazing feat and indicative of the good form he was in in the early stages of last year. Djokovic is holding strong at world number one followed by the usual rankings royalty, Federer, Murray and Ferrer, all of whom Nadal has beaten in the past and in due time, will beat again.
Rafa can weave his way back in but I suspect it won’t be too hasty, based on his performance over the last week he’s not anywhere near 100%. and his body, whose expiry date may be sooner than his top 5 counterparts, is still very much in recovery mode as he dusts off his racquets and gets back onboard the ATP circuit.