Up to No.2 in the world rankings, and completing ‘La Decima’; the French Open was some success for the king of clay, who managed to win Roland Garros without dropping a set.
Rafa Nadal looks something back to his best; just a year prior to winning his 10th French Open title, the Spaniard had to pull out of last year’s tournament citing a wrist injury. It would seem it was the end of Nadal; a player who had not won a Grand Slam since 2014, and a player who appeared always plagued by injury.
However, following a positive start to 2017, reaching the final of the Australian Open – only to lose in five sets to old rival, Roger Federer – Nadal has gone on to win his 29th Masters title in Monte Carlo, his 18th ATP title in Barcelona, and then he broke Novak Djokovic’s all-time Masters record by winning his 30th at the Madrid Open.
The form Nadal was demonstrating this year allowed him to be so dominant at the French Open. He looked the most convincing of all the top seeds; playing the most aggressive tennis, and was rarely troubled all tournament.
It has now led three-time French Open champion, Mats Wilander, to put Rafa as one of the Wimbledon favourites despite not reaching a quarter-final at the tournament since 2011:
“Absolutely he [Nadal] is one of the main favourites now for Wimbledon,
“He has taken confidence away from [Stan] Wawrinka, from [Andy] Murray, even though he didn’t play him. And Roger Federer is a very happy man that he didn’t come to the French because his confidence has not been dented.
“Nadal has changed his game and he is playing way more aggressive, closer to the baseline, it’s a different Nadal.
“He’ll go to Wimbledon with so much confidence. For me he’s favourite with Federer but Federer won’t have the confidence of coming in as French Open champion.”
— Wilander speaking on Eurosport
Such compliments seem fair to suggest when considering Rafa’s form this calender year. However, the 15-time Grand Slam winner will not be taking anything for granted when coming into the tournament.
The Spaniard has looked out of sorts on grass for the previous five years, hence defeats to like of Dustin Brown and early exits at all grass court tournaments. Even Nadal himself has admitted it may be “impossible” to win his third Wimbledon title, as the Spaniard’s knee problems may come back to bite the 31-year-old.
With the game being so much quicker on grass, it allows the opponents to take the game to the Spaniard rather Rafa dominating matches from the baseline as he does in the French. Unpredictable, and aggressive styles have stifled Nadal on grass, and it could prove his achilles heel once again at SW19.
The low bounce of the ball is something that puts added pressure on the Spaniard’s knees when playing the grass surface, and Nadal will need a much needed feel for the surface before Wimbledon when completing at Queens in three weeks time.