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Is Rafael Nadal a Spent Force? His Rivals Disagree

After the French Open defeat Nadal is anything but down and out, if his rivals are to be believed. 

Published
Sports
3 min read
Rafael Nadal of Spain throws his towel back to a ballboy during his men’s singles quarter-final match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 27, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Rafa Nadal’s brutal French Open defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovicon Wednesday provoked the predictable question of whether the Spaniard’s career is in terminal decline.

Those in the know, however, his fellow players, believe the 29-year-old remains a force to be reckoned with.

Great things had been expected of Nadal’s quarter-final battle with Djokovic, but in reality the 44th meeting of the two gladiators was an anti-climax as world number one Djokovic dominated more or less throughout a 7-5 6-3 6-1 victory.

Yet having beaten Nadal for the first time in seven attempts at Roland Garros, Djokovic was not writing him off after becoming only the second man to beat him in 72 matches in Paris.

Rafael Nadal of Spain leaves the court after being defeated by Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men’s quarter-final match  at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, June 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Rafael Nadal of Spain leaves the court after being defeated by Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men’s quarter-final match  at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, June 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

At the end of the day, he’s human. I understand that people are questioning his game and where he’s going to be. But if you need a reminder of who he is, just look at his career stats and grand slams that he won.
- Djokovic.

With 14 majors to his name, Nadal was going for the unprecedented ‘decima’ at the French Open -- a feat achieved by no man at a single grand slam.

But with injuries and appendicitis keeping Nadal off court during the second half of 2014, 2015 has not been a good year by his own high standards -- he arrived in Paris without winning a European claycourt event for the first time in over a decade.

In fact, his only success has been at a low key tournament in Buenos Aires where the highest ranked opponent he faced was then world number 59 Federico Delbonis.

Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point in his 7-6 6-2 loss to Stan Wawrinka in the QF of the Rome Masters. (Photo: AP)
Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point in his 7-6 6-2 loss to Stan Wawrinka in the QF of the Rome Masters. (Photo: AP)

Nadal could drop as low as 11th when the ATP world rankings are published on Monday and with patchy form on grasscourts in recent years his seeding at Wimbledon is unlikely to be bumped up more than a couple of places, if that.

It all makes gloomy news for Nadal fans, but David Ferrer, his fellow Spaniard, agrees with Djokovic that it is far too early to regard Nadal as a spent force.

Rafael is still among the best players in the world. We should not rule out Rafa Nadal. There is no player like Nadal.
- David Ferrer, 2013 French Open runner-up.

Rafa is still playing well. Just not as well as before. He’s coming back from a pretty rough six-seven month period, struggling with injuries and illness. Obviously he had (appendicitis) surgery as well. It takes time. Rafa will come back.
- Andy Murray, one of six players to defeat Nadal this year.

Djokovic was also quick to point out how Nadal was written off after a lengthy injury break in 2012 -- and stormed back to win the French and U.S. Opens in 2013.

He’s somebody that understands what he needs to do when he’s feeling down to come back and fight to be the best. That’s what he has done after nine months of absence from the tour and he came back, had one of the best years of his life in 2013. So I don’t think that this is a big deal. He is 29 and still has years in front of him, and I’m sure he’s going to bounce back and play very strong.
- Djokovic.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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