Hey, remember Rafael Nadal? The electric 26-year-old southpaw who so often effortlessly glides from sideline to sideline like he's got skates on? The Spaniard who's arguably the best defensive scrambler in the history of the sport, yet still possesses enough spin and power in his forehand to send the biggest players reeling backwards? The King of Clay?
Yeah, as it turns out, that guy still plays tennis.
You may have forgotten, as Rafa, thanks to a left knee injury, hasn't played since his early departure at Wimbledon back in June.
You might also have forgotten because in his stead, tennis hasn't faltered.
Andy Murray has taken his game to the next level, taking home gold at the Olympics and his first major title at the U.S. Open. He's as unstoppable as he's been his entire career.
Roger Federer, ever since taking home the title at Wimbledon, has looked like the mid-2000s Roger Federer. So, basically, nearly unstoppable.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, has vaulted back up to No. 1 in the world, and he proved he deserves that ranking with his impressive performance against Federer on Monday at the ATP World Tour Finals. There was no shot he could not make. When he plays with the type of focus, determination and passion he displayed on Monday, he's unstoppable.
And what happens when you have three unstoppable players battling for the same titles? Among other things, happy tennis fans.
Federer's four-set win over Murray at Wimbledon. Murray's revenge at the Olympics. Murray's five-set thriller over Djokovic at the U.S. Open. Djokovic's win over Federer on Monday, which will go down as one of the best two-set matches you'll ever see. Every time these guys go up against each other, it seems like they out-do the last matchup.
Tennis is reaching an all-time height in terms of competitiveness and talent, and the impending return of Nadal in 2013 will only increase that.
Just think about it. Murray was always an elite player, but since he's finally transformed into a major winner, Nadal hasn't been around. With Federer and Djokovic increasing their rivalry to an unprecedented—for them—territory, the Big Three will finally turn into a legitimate Big Four.
And considering the fact that 2012, which just ended on one of the highest notes possible, is still fresh on the minds of tennis fans, that's a hefty statement.
I think I can speak for everyone not named Novak, Roger and Andy when I say, hurry back, Rafa. 2013 needs you.