Since the beginning of 2018 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from 19 tournaments. Majority of these have been on hard courts but still a high number. Rafa has had every injury possible it feels like but he never gives up.
During this time he has had some tough matches as well. In 2018 he couldn’t complete his matches in Melbourne and New York due to injury and at Indian Wells earlier on in the year had to withdraw against Federer and skip Miami.
Preparations going into April were not ideal.
Before the clay court season I said previous high standards have led to unrealistic expectations and that panned out to be true.
For the first time since 2004 the Spaniard turned up at Rome without a title.
This was a worrying time in the camp as coach Carlos Moya has said.
Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid ended without him picking up silverware.
A genuine worry despite two semi-final appearances and Barcelona runner-up.
His best was far away. There was improvement going from Monte Carlo through to Madrid but he wasn’t playing at a level we know he can.
Winning here was a must. Maybe the biggest pressure he has had on him for some time?
Rome kicked it all off.
He was due to play on washout Wednesday but had to double up on Thursday instead dropping just two games in four sets of tennis and continued to cruise with wins over Verdasco, Tsitsipas and then a three set win over Djokovic with a slight blip in the middle.
At this best? Close.
Coach and good friend of his Carlos Moya said it was a worrying time and had to act more like a friend than a coach during this tricky stage but he proved as Carlos said he is a ‘mental genius’
His run to the title in Paris was Rafa like.
93 wins and 2 defeats at Roland Garros winning 12 titles. It’s absurd!
David Goffin and the wind against Roger Federer gave him something to think about on route to the final. Dominic Thiem stayed competitive for some time but then it changed.
Rafa’s tennis was lights out. No one on the tour would have competed at a higher level than what Dominic Thiem did. It was relentless.
A 12th title still seems mad.
It is amazing how we went from doubts and questions to this level of clay court tennis miles ahead of anyone else.
A genius in more ways than one.