He has never taken ‘NO’ for an answer. Ever since he turned pro in 2001, he has never had a luxury of a smooth career; he had to and still continues to fight injuries but that never pushed him to an extent where he saw the end. He took injury lay-offs in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014 but every single time he came back even stronger. It was him who chose a physically demanding style of play on the court where he over-relies on speedy game play putting his body to the ultimate test.
In 2016, when Nadal pulled off from the Miami Open citing heat exhaustion, the debates on his fitness were rolled again. That made one wonder if Nadal’s body has finally given up on him that he was unable to withstand with a little heat. After he drew out of Wimbledon last year with yet another injury, he decided to take a break for the rest of the year.
He returns. Always.
The five-six-month break turned out to be a blessing for the Spaniard as he returned as fresh as ever and his comeback was marked when he reached the final of the season opener, Australian Open’s final. His five-setter against Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinal before another five-setter against Roger Federer gave happy tears to his followers of a long time.
Although he missed the trophy by a whisker, the way he played, just reminisced the Nadal of good old days and that was a message that he was back on a mission.
After a couple of months came his own Grand Slam. Without dropping a set throughout the tournament, he clinched the unbelievable – La Decima – a 10th Rolland Garros title and revised his record of finals in Paris to 10-0. Not in the next 100 years, there will be a player who will break this record of the Spaniard.
Nadal has been known to have played more matches on the softer, easy-on-the-feet clay courts, rather than on the hard courts. The number of Grand Slam titles (RG 10 – US Open 2) certainly testify it. However, with careful steps in his fitness, resuscitated backhand and forehand, he found out answers on the hard court as well.
It goes without saying that Nadal has been struck with sheer luck as well but it would be unfair to suppress his hard work with the tag of ‘good luck.’
Nadal reached No. 2 ranking in the ATP singles category because of his results in Australian and French Open. But he went on to reclaim the top spot after a gap of four long years following the-then No. 1 Andy Murray’s injury. He entered the US Open as seeded one and among the two – Federer and Nadal – whoever would win the Grand Slam would take away the No. 1 rank. Now that Federer has been knocked out, regardless of the result, Nadal will leave New York as the World No.1 singles player.
Nadal & 2017!
Despite not playing any player of top 25 rank in the main draw of US Open 2017, Nadal’s journey initially was indeed a sea-saw ride. The 31-year-old, who had never reached the quarter-final of the tournament since his win in 2013, has an infamous image of losing to lower-ranked players on non-clay courts.
However, the Spaniard from the vintage form bang on time. The fire is back in his eyes, the eyebrows again look as competitive as always when he is dead serious in between games, the water, and juice bottles are lined-up not making the intense look more intense. Everything is a place for him. He won his fourth round and a quarterfinal in ruthless straight sets, not giving his opponents not a bit chance on a court, which comes last on Nadal’s favourite list.
In the semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro in the Arthur Ashe, he lost control as he let the Argentinian play with his mind and that led to Nadal fall in the first set. Thankfully, he did what Uncle Toni had thought. Considering Nadal’s forehand was not strong enough to stop Del Potro’s forehand, the former had to bring his top attacking game which he eventually did before he took away the next three sets and the penultimate round of US Open 2017 in two hours and 30 minutes.
There were emotion, nostalgia and some fabulous records at the end of the superb encounter. The last time Nadal lost in a semi-final of a Grand Slam was in 2009 and it was Del Potro who beat him. Ever since that, he has won 15 straight semi-finals of a major and that has to be accoladed.
When Nadal plays his career’s 23rd Grand Slam final, he’ll be an inspiration who has come a long way, putting back career-threatening injuries right from his knee, wrist and lower back. The Spaniard has moved past one career threatening injury after another to only demonstrate his undying spirit for the love of a game that he is dear to him. He will be a part of two major finals of 2017 and suddenly from a 14 Grand Slam-holder, prior to this season, he is someone who is suddenly aiming for a 16th one.
Regardless of what happens in Arthur Ashe on Sunday, one must remember that is that Nadal made a glorious career, that went towards ‘the end’ so many times, only because he believed.