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The Remarkable Resurgence of Rafael Nadal
Tuesday, 10/10/2017
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It's safe to say that 2017 has been somewhat of a blast from the past with regards to tennis – even the most nostalgic and optimistic fans of the sport would have been hard pushed to believe that both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer would be once again battling for the number one spot in the world rankings.
With both players on the wrong side of 30 and seemingly past their best, their return to form has been nothing short of remarkable, but it's Rafael Nadal who arguably deserves the most credit and whose revival doesn't perhaps get as much attention as that of Roger Federer.
Nadal's injury problems have been well-documented throughout the years and have left both the 31-year-old and his fans wondering just what he could have achieved had he stayed fit whilst he was at the peak of his powers. In spite of this, Nadal has stayed relatively injury-free throughout 2017, capturing the US Open with a convincing win over South African Kevin Anderson and also picked up an unprecedented tenth French Open crown to land the 16th Grand Slam title of his career.
Nadal finds himself only three slams behind Roger Federer in the all-time list and it would take a brave man to bet against him making a further dent in that number in 2018. Nadal is one of the bookies' favorites to land the Australian Open crown in January but there are a number of free bets available online for those who are uncertain as to whether his good form will continue into next year. Nevertheless, the Spaniard looks set to end the year as World Number One and will be looking to the ATP finals in London to secure his status as the best player of 2017.
As well as staying injury-free, Nadal credits much of his success to his coach and uncle Toni, stating that "...without him, I would never be playing tennis", and that "because he was strong, I was able to get through all the problems I had in my career in terms of injuries." The partnership between Nadal and his uncle Toni started when in the town of Manacor when the player was just four and has since blossomed into one of the most successful player-coach combinations in tennis history. However, with Nadal announcing that he is part ways with his uncle at the end of the year, it'll be interesting to see just what sort of impact this will have on his game.
Former world number one Carlos Moya is set to become Nadal's new head coach once uncle Toni hangs up his practice racquet and the Spanish legend puts both Federer's and Nadal's resurgence down to the extended breaks that both players have taken to fully recover from both injuries and fatigue. At 36 and 31 respectively, both Federer and Nadal have successfully managed their seasons and their bodies in a way that they can be fit and ready for what are considered the most important events of the season.
It's also important to note that some of the stats behind Nadal's resurgent 2017 are quite astounding. The industry average with regards to average first serve win return percentages for a top 100 player hovers around the 28 percentage mark, but a recent Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers Analysis of Nadal's season reveals that the Spaniard has won an impressive 35.2 percent this year, which is bumped up to a staggering 43.4 percent when focusing on just clay court matches alone. When you consider that he outperforms every other player in the top 16 in this regard, it's possible to appreciate the added mobility and fitness associated with the aforementioned extended periods of rest Nadal has enjoyed this year.
Whilst it could be argued that a good number of the world's other top players have had injury hit seasons and that because of this, the competition this year at the top of the rankings hasn't been as fierce as in past seasons, there's no taking away from what both Federer and Nadal have achieved. The more neutral tennis fan will however hope that the world's best  players (Murray, Djokovic et al) all regain full fitness in 2018 ahead of what could be one of the most competitive ATP seasons in recent memory.