Rafael Nadal: Biggest Takeaways from Rafa's First Singles Action of 2013

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2013

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 21: Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand against Gilles Simon of France in their semi-final during day seven of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters, at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club  on April 21, 2012 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal made his long-awaited return to singles tennis action on Wednesday in Chile, and his victorious performance did more than just silence the critics.

It taught us a few things.

Nadal quickly got his footing after a shaky start on the South American clay and defeated Argentina's Federico Delbonis in straight sets—6-3, 6-2—according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). The win sends Rafa through to the quarterfinals of the ATP VTR Open, where he'll play his next singles match on Friday.

Before Nadal takes to the singles court again, let's take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from his first solo action since last summer.


No Panic

After seven months away from singles tennis, Rafa demonstrated a cool, calm approach during Wednesday's win in Chile, rallying just moments after going down 2-0 in the first set to take the opening frame 6-3.

Despite winning just one point through the first two games, Nadal quickly picked up steam. He broke Delbonis back in the fourth game to tie the set at 2-2, showing tennis fans why he is an 11-time Grand Slam champion. 

Of course, Nadal supporters are used to seeing that sort of relaxed approach from the 26-year-old.

Nevertheless, Rafa's lack of panic speaks to the confidence he has in his game even when he's not at 100 percent.


Killer Instinct

It's obvious that Rafa's form is far from what it was at this time last year. He's missed months of tennis and is no doubt experiencing discomfort in his left knee still. However, despite all of that, he managed to approach Wednesday's match against Delbonis with a fearless attitude and killer instinct. 

After winning the first set 6-3, Nadal smelled blood and wasted no time finishing off his opponent, wrapping up the second set in eight games to take the match with ease.

Nadal's presence is sometimes enough to intimidate his opponents. In this case, the combination of intimidation and killer instinct—the same one that's helped him win 11 of 16 Grand Slam finals since 2005—helped push Rafa over the top. 


Same Old Rafa

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Nadal's first singles win of 2013 was the way in which he won. He never fled from the game plan and never stopped scrapping.

It was a classic Nadal match. He battled hard early on, looking at times like the underdog.

In the end, his unrelenting will ultimately broke his opponent, as we've seen so many times over the course of his career.

We will need to see many more matches before we can definitively say Nadal is ready to challenge the world's best, and he would be the first to agree. However, after Wednesday's match, tennis fans can be encouraged that the seven months Rafa spent away from tennis haven't at all changed how he plays the game.


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