Rafael Nadal's Biggest Roadblocks to 3rd Wimbledon Title

Christopher Impiglia@@impigliatoFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09:  Rafael Nadal of Spain bites the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy as he celebrates after the men's singles final against David Ferrer of Spain during day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Despite his seemingly impossible eighth Roland Garros title, Rafael Nadal will go into Wimbledon as the fifth seed, below countryman David Ferrer, whom Nadal decisively beat in the final of the French. The resulting difficult draw is one roadblock in Nadal’s way. But besides this, he’ll face the challenge of the grass courts and an augmented schedule because of his recent injury.


A Tough Draw 

Because seedings are based on rankings and performances on grass, Nadal faces a potential matchup against Andy Murray in the quarters, Roger Federer in the semis and Novak Djokovic in the final.  

All three look likely to pose problems for Rafa.

Although Murray withdrew from Roland Garros due to a back injury suffered in Rome, he looks set to return to his best. He’s already competing at Wimbledon’s warm-up tournament at Queens.

Quelling any doubt over his condition, in quotes given to the BBC, the world’s No. 2 said:

The last three or four days, it [back] has felt really, really good…When you start back up again, things can feel stiff or sore on some days, but the last few days since I started training at Queens it has felt a lot better…I have been practicing with a lot of the top players. Touch wood, it is good.

Unfortunately for Nadal, Murray looks likely to be his opponent in the quarterfinals. And if the Scot is indeed at his best, he’ll certainly cause the Mallorcan trouble. Not only is Murray playing in front of his home crowd, he’ll be looking to win his first Wimbledon trophy, relishing the chance to take revenge on the man who knocked him out of the tournament in 2011. 

Federer, meanwhile, after crashing out of Roland Garros in a poor display against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, will be looking to remind the world that he’s not yet finished.

Jim White of The Telegraph describes Federer, in the match against Tsonga, as looking “old,” “a spent force” and “yesterday’s man.” That his expression told the world “retirement is surely now imminent” after a defeat of seemingly “apocalyptic implications.”

Driven by this loss, Rafa might face a reinvigorated Federer, who be will seeking to defend his title.

Roger furthermore remains Rafa’s greatest threat on grass, beating Nadal in the finals of Wimbledon 2006 and 2007. And, although slowing down somewhat with the years, shorter points and more time will always favor Federer’s style of play.

Plus, next to Murray, he’s also Wimbledon’s crowd favorite. With them at his back, Federer could very well prove dangerous to Nadal this year.

Djokovic’s loss against Nadal in the semifinals of the French certainly still stings. But, should Nadal progress through potential clashes with Murray and Federer, Djokovic will have his chance to set the record straight. 

As the No. 1 seed, Nole will have a much easier route to the final, his most threatening opponent most likely coming in the form of No. 6 Tomas Berdych. Thus, should he face Nadal in the potential final, the Serb will come into the match as the fresher of the two. 

In addition, on grass, Nadal will find it much more difficult to run down Nole’s heavy serve and groundstrokes, thus creating the human wall the Spaniard uses so effectively to dominate on clay.

It was this wall that stopped Djokovic in Paris, contributing to his 75 unforced errors. However, on grass, this will be a different story. 


Recent Injury 

Although Nadal has demonstrated he’s back to his best since he missed six months due to injury, that doesn’t mean the injury won’t continue to affect him.

He himself has played down his chances at winning Wimbledon after admitting that he has been unable to prepare for the tournament as much as he would have liked. 

In quotes given to the Daily Mail, Nadal said, “I won't play a tournament before Wimbledon, so that's not the ideal situation before a grand slam like Wimbledon that is on grass and the conditions are very different…It's the tournament that is more unpredictable for that reason.”

Warm-up tournaments going into Wilmbledon such as that at Halle and at Queens are essential for players to transition from clay to grass. In Nadal’s case, it might be all the more significant, as he will be transitioning from his best surface to his worst.

His reasons for withdrawing? He simply needs more time to recover after the exertions of the past few weeks, as the Daily Mail notes.

Nadal’s injury has taken its toll on his overall practice routine. He’s admitted that he practices significantly less than he used to, as the Express reports. During the Rome Masters last month, he practiced just 50 minutes leading up to a match. However, this was particularly unusual.

“One year ago, on a day like today I would practice close to two hours,” he said, in quotes given to the Express, admitting that since coming back from injury he’s had to “adapt to the conditions and accept the situation.”

Since returning to the courts to win seven titles this year, he has demonstrated to be adapting well to his new, less rigorous schedule. However, so far he has only played on clay. He has yet to adapt to grass.

He has not played a match on grass since his 2012 upset to Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon. This, and his inability to play any grass tournaments leading up to this year's Wimbledon might very well weigh on him both mentally and physically.

Nadal remains hopeful. In quotes given to the Daily Mail, he said,

I am going to try to arrive in good shape to Wimbledon. And if not, I am going to look about the rest of the season. Because I’m in a good position, even if I don’t play good Wimbledon. That doesn’t mean I am not going to try, because I am going to try 100% to be ready for there and to play good tennis there.


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