Clay-court king Rafael Nadal came into the 2013 season under a great deal of controversy and doubt, having succumb to various injuries in the back half of 2012.
Many wondered whether he would be as competitive this year as a result.
Anyone that isn't yet completely convinced that the Spanish international isn't more-than-ready to challenge the best in the world once more across various tournaments and surfaces is sadly mistaken. Nadal is back, and he's ready to mix it with the best once more.
One look at his season so far proves that to be correct.
Having spent over eight months off the court with various ailments—missing the 2012 London Olympics, Wimbledon Championships, U.S. Open and 2013 Australian Open—Nadal returned this year in three ATP Tour events and has greatly impressed in them all.
His first return event was at Vina del Mar in Chile—an event that he didn't drop a set to en route to the final. And whilst he would bow out 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the final, Nadal proved that he was back and ready to challenge the best again—despite his knee not being 100 percent.
Nadal then appeared in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he went one better to win the title from tennis legend David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the final.
Yet it was his most recent appearance in the Acapulco, Mexico that has the world buzzing in expectancy, with Nadal dominating a strong field to claim the title. Not only did he not drop a single set en route to the trophy, he beat clay-court specialists Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer to do it.
In fact, his 6-0, 6-2 final victory over Ferrer (current World No. 4) was perhaps the most dominant performance Nadal has shown since his return.
And it's given great hope and anticipation to what the clay-court king is able to do in the remainder of 2013 and beyond as he returns from injury.
Sitting at 12-1 for the year, Nadal is primed for another strong showing at the 2013 French Open—something that seemed in doubt at times due to his injury. The seven-time champion will be looking to make it eight Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros—a truly remarkable achievement—when he takes the court this year, and given what we've seen so far, he has to be considered the favorite.
His return from injury proves that he is once again the man to beat.
And from there, the possibilities are endless.
Should he win the French Open, you'd have to think that his confidence would be sky high once more. He'll enter the Wimbledon Championships with a great deal of self-belief, and should pick up a plethora of ATP points through the back half of the season also—no doubt finishing in the top four again.
He's a definite danger at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and will certainly be no slouch when it comes to the World Tour finals at the end of the year.
For Nadal to finish the year with at least two Grand Slams titles, a World Tour final and a top four ranking once more is not at all out of the question.
In fact, given what we've seen so far, it seems very, very plausible for the Spanish maestro—particularly if he continues to improve like he has done so far.
How will Rafael Nadal fare in his return from injury in 2013?
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