By Daniel McAleer
Spanish Adonis Rafael Nadal makes his long awaited comeback at next weeks VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile. This will be his first appearance on the ATP tour in seven months.
The French Open champions last appearance was in the second of Wimbledon, losing to Czech Lukas Rosol. The Spaniard has been dogged by injuries in recent years, most notably the tendinitis which has kept him sidelined on this occasion.
He was due to play in the Australian Open in January but had to postpone his comeback further due to illness.
The return of the former world number one should be more smooth sailing in Chile than it would have been in Melbourne considering this tournament is on his favourite surface, clay. Where he has an astonishing record. He has won seven French Open titles and holds the record of most consecutive wins on a single surface having won 81 matches in a row from April 2005 to May 2007. It is statistics like these, that make most tennis fans and critics alike agree that he is the greatest player of all time on clay.
The return of the likeable Mallorcan will mark the return of the big four. Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal himself. It is a timely return. The finals of all the slams have become increasinlgy predictable. Murray-Djokovic, with the occasional Federer appearance. Many agree that the Murray-Djokovic rivalry is not an enjoyable one. Their matches generally being long marathons that are exhausting to watch. So a bit of variety will be greatly welcomed among fans.
Another intriguing element of this story is Nadal’s record against the big three. He holds a winning record against all three of his rivals. Against Federer, Nadal holds an 18-10 lead, he is 19-14 against Djokovic and he holds a commanding 13-5 lead in matches played against Murray.
All of this of course is assuming that Nadal will return as the Nadal of old. There are many question marks hanging over his head in relation to his fitness. He has admitted that he still feels discomfort in his knee and has at times been unable to push himself as hard as he would like to in practice, “Even though I still have some discomfort that prevents me at times from training as hard as I’d like to, you’ve got to start sometime and I think this is the right time and place,” Nadal told reporters outside his hotel in Santiago.
So can Nadal return to the highs that saw him pummel anyone that stepped in his path on the way to claiming an amazing 11 Grand Slam tournaments at the tender age of 25? Many fans of the popular Spaniard will argue yes. The pessimists who know how serious tendinitis of the knees can be might be less confident. One thing all tennis fans can agree on, Rafael Nadal’s comeback is a welcome one.