Rafael Nadal Can Still Be a Major Force in the 2013 Season

Matt Jones@@MattJFootballFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 11:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates victory in the men's singles final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day 16 of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 11, 2012 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It's great to see Rafael Nadal back in action.

Despite the titanic clashes we have seen between Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, there is something that the Spaniard brings that adds an extra spark to the men's game.

Nadal made it to the final match of the Chile Open last Sunday, his first tournament following the continued knee problems that have seen him out of the game for just short of a year. Whilst the standard was not necessarily the best, the signs were encouraging for Nadal. Unfortunately, he could not win on his return, as he lost in the final to Horacio Zeballos.

It begs the question: Can Nadal be a major player for the remainder of the season? Can he challenge in tour events and majors? I certainly think so.

If there is one thing that Nadal has shown in his years as a top tennis player, it is amazing physicality. If any player in the world can come back from an injury as serious as this and fight his or her way back to the peak of the game, it is Nadal. Reaching a final on his return is merely testament to that.

The timing of his return has also come at a favourable slot in the calendar for the Spaniard. The clay court season has just gotten underway. The French Open is due to start in May.

Nadal is a clay court demon. Playing competitive tennis on clay is the perfect way for him to not only get playing again, but also to start playing well and to start winning.

If his rehabilitation continues to run smoothly, then he will surely be the bookies' favourite to stand victorious once again at his favourite hunting ground, Roland Garros. Nadal has been so dominant on the clay courts that even if he is not at his belligerent best, then he still might have enough to come out on top.

Finally, Nadal will be extremely hungry. Having sat and watched epic contests between the aforementioned three best players in the world in his absence, he will be hungrier than ever. In years gone by, it was Nadal involved in those marathon duels, walking away victorious more often than not.

Nadal's progress this season will provide another anecdote to what is already shaping up to be an encapsulating season of men's tennis.