Rafael Nadal's Consistency Is Enough to Prove That He Is Back

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2013

ROME, ITALY - MAY 18:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates match point against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in their semi final match during day seven of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2013 at the Foro Italico Tennis Centre  on May 18, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It is hard to know when an athlete has returned to his true form after missing time with an injury, but Rafael Nadal is clearly back.

The tennis star missed seven months with a knee injury and then struggled when he returned to the court. In his first tournament in Chile, he went far against the weak field but then lost to Horacio Zeballos in the finals.

At that point, the question remained about whether he would be able to compete at a high level ever again. If he were to get back to that point, fans did not know how long it would take.

However, Nadal has been impressive since then. He won five singles titles and lost only one match in that stretch. While the loss ended his run of wins at the Monte Carlo Masters, one defeat is nothing to be alarmed about.

Instead, it is the consistency that should have fans excited. 

Nadal has stepped into the season without missing a beat. He is barely losing any sets on clay, and his statistics are as good as ever. So far this year, he has won 37 percent of return games, which ranks second on the tour.

Additionally, he ranks first in the world in FedEx Reliability Index, which includes every factor of winning and accounts for high-pressure situations. 

While the Spanish player has had the advantage of playing most of his matches so far on clay—where he has done so well in his career—the fact that he looks like the Nadal of old is encouraging.

Of course, this success has not come without a bit of struggle. Ernests Gulbis came close to knocking off the King of Clay in the third round of the Italian Open. David Ferrer also provided a tough challenge in the quarterfinals.

Still, his resilience has been impressive. He continued to battle against tough opponents and did what was necessary to come out on top.

In the finals, he is set to face an old nemesis in Roger Federer. Regardless of who wins, Nadal has done enough to prove that he is ready to take on the rest of the world at the French Open.

After winning seven of his last eight appearances at Roland Garros, there is every reason he should be the favorite heading into this Grand Slam event.