The hype surrounding Rafael Nadal’s knee is starting to simmer, especially after his big win at the Brazil Open on February 17. While one still has to wonder how Rafa will hold up through the rigors of a full season, there’s reason to be hopeful for another big year.
Nadal missed more than seven months with a bad left knee that left the tennis world without one of its brightest stars. As Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic carried on as the Big Three, Rafa was resigned to rest and rehab.
The rest of the Big Four are still winning, and now Nadal is, too. He made his comeback at the VTR Open earlier this month, but he wasn’t in the shape he would have hoped, falling in both the singles and doubles finals.
Last week’s Brazil Open changed things, though. He didn’t look like the Rafa of old, but he certainly didn’t appear to be far from classic form. With the win, Nadal proved his knee troubles are fading away.
Rafa isn’t without discomfort in his knee, but he’s done sitting on the sidelines. He waited long enough to return to action, and Nadal hopes his win in Brazil is the start of big things this season (via ESPN):
I'll definitely enjoy this one because of all the problems that I've gone through with the knee. When I won for the first time here I was just starting and hopefully this will mark a new beginning.
Nadal didn’t return to action at full strength, but he understands the limits to which he can push his body. He wouldn’t have come back without having the confidence in his knee—and his abilities—to return a dominant player.
With Indian Wells approaching, Nadal has to decide whether to play or continue to let his knee mend. Should he choose to play, it will undoubtedly be with the knowledge that his knee problems won’t hold him back from a legitimate chance at winning.
Rafa has always been an intense competitor, and seven months away from the sport were, no doubt, difficult for the superstar. He missed time in 2009 due to tendinitis in his knees (via ESPN), but the nagging knee problems haven’t kept the Spaniard from winning at the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the French Open a total of five times since 2010.
As long as Nadal continues to play when he feels his knee can withstand the rigors, he is primed for another big season and a chance to build on his illustrious career. He has owned Roland Garros’ clay courts, and with the French Open on the horizon, a big win in Brazil proves he will find a way to prepare himself both physically and mentally for the first major challenge of 2013.