Rafael Nadal has had one of his strongest seasons ever after coming back from a knee injury, securing his place at the ATP World Tour Finals 2013 with ease.
Grand Slam Results
Australian Open: N/A
French Open: W
US Open: W
Sao Paolo 250 (Clay)
Acapulco 500 (Clay)
Indian Wells 1000 (Hard)
Barcelona 500 (Clay)
Madrid 1000 (Clay)
Rome 1000 (Clay)
French Open 2000 (Clay)
Montreal 1000 (Hard)
Cincinnati 1000 (Hard)
US Open 2000 (Hard)
After a 2012 cut short by injury, Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) has bounced back in some style with probably the best year in his career. He moved back to World No.1 for the first time since 2011 thanks to 10 titles including 2 slams.
After missing the opening slam of the year in Australia due to illness, Nadal made his return on the Golden Swing in South America. He may have been unsuccessful in taking the title in Vina del Mar thanks to a zoning Horacio Zeballos but it was a productive outing after 9 months away from the sport.
It would also form the basis for an 18 match winning run which coincided with titles in Sao Paolo (def. Nalbandian 6-2 6-3) and Acapulco. Nadal didn’t drop a set in Mexico, defeating the No.2 and No.3 Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer in the semi-final and final respectively. He outclassed Ferrer, losing just two games.
While Nadal proved he still had it on the clay after so long out, there were big doubts about his knee being able to hold up on more testing hard courts but he allayed many fears with his victory in Indian Wells. He defeated Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro back to back for his first hard court title since 2010. He was in trouble against Del Potro in the final, going a set and break down before coming out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 winner.
Novak Djokovic finally ended Nadal’s 18 match winning streak at the beginning of the European clay swing but more notably broke the strangehold Nadal held on the Monte Carlo Masters – an event he had won EIGHT times in a row. Nadal came back stronger from the defeat, going unbeaten for the rest of the clay season.
He defeated Nicolas Almagro in Barcelona, Stanislas Wawrinka in Madrid and Roger Federer in Rome, dropping just three sets in his 15 victories in the events leading up to the French Open. While Djokovic was an entry in the latter two events, he lost early meaning the next eagerly awaited meeting between the two would have to wait until Paris.
Seeding controversy struck at the event with many calling for Nadal to be moved into the top two, especially with the fear of a Nadal-Djokovic semi-final looming large. There was no change and the pair eventually met for a place in the final. Nadal showed weakness early on in the tournament dropping sets to Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan but by the time the semis came round he was in much better form but was almost outlasted by his biggest rival.
Thankful for a net touch by Djokovic whilst the Serbian was up a break in the fifth, it provided the boost Nadal needed to fight back, finally winning 9-7 in the fifth set to make it through to the final. David Ferrer was seen as an easy win for whoever won the other semi final and did little to dispel that idea in the final with Nadal winning in straights for his eighth French Open title.
Shocked by a journeyman for the second year running, Wimbledon has not been a pleasant place for Nadal to be the past two years. This time it was Steve Darcis, himself carrying an injury, that sent Nadal out in straight sets in Round 1.
Another break did wonders for Nadal who carried on his fine hard court form from Indian Wells into the North American swing leading to the French Open. After defeating Novak Djokovic in the semi final of Montreal, Milos Raonic was easy pickings in the final while another big server was put away in the Cincinnati final. John Isner would put up a bigger fight but would lose in two tiebreak sets.
Rafael Nadal came into the US Open as favourite for the first time in a while and the early rounds showed no reason to doubt that as he made the fourth round without dropping a set. Philipp Kohlschreiber put in a heroic effort to take the first set from Nadal in round four but was shattered as the match went on, losing in four. He destroyed Tommy Robredo in the quarter-final, making it five matches without his serve being broken.
Richard Gasquet would manage to do so in the semi final but was still defeated in straight sets as Nadal ensured there would be a Top 2 seeds final in New York. After a 6-2 first set, it looked like Nadal would run away with the match but that was not the case as Djokovic fought back and took control of the third set but he was unable to withstand the pressure, eventually falling to a four set defeat with Nadal going on to win his 13th grand slam.
Post-US Open has been fairly disappointing by the exceptional standards Nadal had set but he has rarely dominated in Asia in the past either way. Djokovic and Del Potro defeated him in Beijing and China respectively and David Ferrer was impressive in Paris to defeat Nadal in straight sets. After losing three matches all year, it would be three defeats in three tournaments – the longest Nadal went without a title all year.
Nadal proved the doubters wrong with the best year of his career and it promises to be an interesting 2014 if he can keep this level of play up. However, after winning three slams in 2010 he had a down year by his standards winning just three tournaments and none off of clay. Whether this will happen again remains to be seen but he will have a lot to live up to next year.