Never dismiss Nadal

When Rafael Nadal limped out of the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London last November, having failed to win a set in three matches, the whispers became more like murmurs.

Many were convinced that we had seen the best of the Spaniard, that his troublesome knees could not withstand the torture of pounding the courts year after year. Eight months on the 24-year-old awoke with what must have been an unparalleled sense of satisfaction after adding a second Wimbledon title to the fifth French Open crown he won in June.

We should have known better than to even consider the possibility that Nadal would not bounce back. This is a man whose competitiveness and intensity is unrivalled in the sport; a focus, a will and a huge talent that has been rewarded with eight Grand Slam titles so far, with the promise of more to come. Playing within himself is not in Nadal’s DNA. Rather, everything is done as if his life depends on it.

As he sits well clear at the top of the world rankings after back-to-back Grand Slam titles, it is that intensity that sets him apart from the rest. No one fights the way Nadal does. Every time a Roger Federer or an Andy Murray takes him on, they know that he will give every ounce of his being to win.

The only thing missing from Nadal’s career is a US Open triumph, a tournament which is presently in play. In each of the past two years he has arrived in New York injured or mentally spent and yet has still managed to fight through to the semifinals, only to run out of energy on the final weekend.

This year, with the benefit of a brief holiday, he should be better prepared. John McEnroe is among those who believe Nadal can do it and it seems the Spaniard believes it too. “This year things might be a bit different,” Nadal said. “I will try to work as I did in December, which was very good for me. I will try to be healthy to play well in the US Open.” —

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