Recurring injuries, not diminishing skills, will force Rafael Nadal to retire early.
Until he won in Stuttgart this month, 2015 was a barren one for him.
Telling was Rafa’s failure to capture this year a title on clay of which surface he has been widely acknowledged as the master bar none (nine French Open crowns, anyone?).
Sadly, the clay season is over.
Stuttgart—only the second title of the Spaniard for 2015—can’t really count because it was played on grass, although from 1916 to 2014, the surface was red dirt.
Maybe it could, considering that the former world No. 1 was given a brand-new Mercedes to go with the trophy.
But, presumably, the car was the least of Rafa’s concerns, but the more scary part is that he is now ranked No. 10, despite the latest of his 66 titles (all surfaces) and in part because he only made it to the quarterfinals of this year’s Roland Garros in Paris where he has lost only twice since 2005.
At 29, the Spaniard is four years younger than Roger Federer (No. 2 on the ATP list) who, with four championships bagged in the first half of 2015, seemed to have had a better year than Rafa.
Federer’s secret could be that he has had fewer bouts with tendonitis, fractures, on-court cramps and other ailments that could really pull down a top tennis player from the company of Djokovic (No. 1 on the ATP list), Murray (No. 3) and Wawrinka (No.4).
No wonder the Swiss maestro has had a more consistent year, unlike Nadal who, after ruling Stuttgart, promptly lost in the first round of Queen’s Club tournament in London last week.
The defeat was so unlikely to be suffered by Nadal—who was not reported to be in bad physical shape—and at that to an unhe¬ralded Ukranian several rungs below the Spaniard in the ATP ranking.
But Rafa did get the boot and Wimbledon, which is less than a week away, would perhaps put to rest the talk that his glory days seem to be over.
Twice winner of the All-England Lawn Tennis Championships, a poor showing here (meaning nothing less than the title being taken by the Spaniard should silence critics) would validate the still unthinkable changing of the guard in men’s top-flight tennis.
Our ten pesetas’ worth of advice is for Rafa to be less transparent by not telling the world what his injuries are (well, he can mention some) because if he insisted on full disclosure, he would be punished with passing shots and drop shots.
Of course, he is such a good sport and unfailingly magnanimous in victory that he had not taken away anything from those few players who beat him.
Here’s to wishing him another Wimbledon triumph, but he has to stay healthy enough for two weeks of battle on grass in London starting June 27.
From there, it’s boom or bust for Rafa.