Rafael Nadal: Illness Will Have Impact on Star's March Back to Elite Status

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic on day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal's comeback took a huge hit when it was revealed that he had to withdraw from an exhibition this week due to a stomach virus. 

According to Houston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times, Nadal was ordered to rest in order to ensure his body is at full strength when he does eventually get back on the court. In the same report, Nadal said everything is good with his knee. 

I was really excited about returning to play and I always have a wonderful experience at the event, and this is the first time I will miss the tournament.

My rehab has gone well, my knee feels good and I was looking forward to competing. Unfortunately, doctors have informed me that my body needs to rest in order to fight this stomach virus.

This exhibition event was the test that Nadal needed to see exactly where his game is at after having to be sidelined for the last six months. In today's fast-paced sports world, six months is an eternity to not be playing. 

Given his incredible track record of success, Nadal was able to miss tournaments for six months and still manage to remain No. 4 in the world rankings, just behind Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray

But right now, there is a renaissance going on in men's tennis. While there is the spectacular quartet at the top, the field is starting to fill out with incredible depth, particularly in the middle of the rankings. 

Players like Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner would be good enough to round out the Top Five in most years, but they are floating around the bottom of the Top 10-15 spots. 

Nadal not only has to catch up to the rest of the field but prove that his health is not going to be problematic as he moves forward with his career. The knee injury was just the start of what could be a very trying 2013 for the 11-time Grand Slam winner. 

What this stomach virus does is remind us of the fickle nature of the human body. Nadal was ready to get back on the court, but now, he has to wait to show the world what he still has in the tank. 

In addition to showing us what he still has, Nadal has to keep his body in peak condition. Stomach viruses can wreak havoc with your immune system, causing weight loss and/or muscle loss. 

What Nadal is going through doesn't seem as serious as that, but you never know what is going to happen until he is fully healthy again. His march back to the top of the tennis rankings will be dependent on how long this virus lingers. 

At the top of his game, Nadal is the best player in the world. However, he may no longer be that guy. He is 26 years old, which is approaching ancient in tennis. He has had six months off due to a knee injury, which is going to be extended a little longer until he recovers from this virus. 

It is hard enough trying to climb to the top of the mountain and claim the throne once, let alone trying to do it again, older and in worse physical shape than before. Nadal is talented enough to do it—he just needs to prove he can stay healthy.