Novak Djokovic may be the No. 1 player in the world, but Rafael Nadal is the most dangerous player right now.
Nadal—who breezed past Roger Federer on Sunday to win the 2013 Rome Masters—is on a remarkable run, even more remarkable considering he missed the second half of 2012 due to tendinitis in his knee.
After the 6-1, 6-3 victory over Federer in Rome, Nadal is now 36-2 on the year. That includes six singles titles, more than he's had in a campaign since 2010. Against a great in Federer on Sunday, he won 71 percent of all service points and 70 percent of second-serve return points, according to ATPWorldTour.com.
Federer simply said after the match, via ESPN.com, "Rafa was just too good today."
Nadal noted, via Rafael Nadal Fans:
Rafael Nadal Fans @RafaelNadalFC
Rafael #Nadal: "It was surprising. I cannot expect to win against Roger #Federer 6-1, 6-3." http://t.co/Iofkfab5wm2013-5-19 17:46:17
Headed into the Rome Masters, Nadal had won 88 percent of all service games. He ranked second on tour, according to ATPWorldTour.com. He ranked first in return games won. He also ranked fifth in break points saved and ninth in break points won.
So much for tendinitis prefacing a gradual decline in his career.
Right now, there is nobody playing better tennis in the world than Nadal. Heck, Djokovic lost against Tomas Berdych for just the second time in his career in the quarterfinals. Nadal's patience to return to the court has paid off, as he looks like vintage Nadal.
Don't expect his run to end any time soon, either. The French Open is right around the corner, a tournament that the 26-year-old Spaniard has excelled in throughout his career. He's won seven times at Roland Garros, including the last three years. Last year, he defeated Djokovic in the final, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
Djokovic is the only man who has defeated Nadal this year since the Spaniard's loss to Horacio Zeballos in his first tournament of 2013 in Chile. If the two meet at the French Open this year, will Djokovic be good enough to stop Nadal's run? That's hard to imagine at this point.
Nadal is showing why he's a legend right now. He had every excuse to struggle in 2013 coming off last year's injury, but he has instead shocked the world.
He's shown that heart is just as important as athletic ability on the court, if not more so.