When all other variables are out of his control, Rafael Nadal will always be able to rely on his fitness to get past the competition.
So much is made of Rafa’s clay-court superiority, and while he isn’t as strong on the grass courts like those he will face at Wimbledon, there’s no reason to worry. As much as we make of surface type, winning at any Grand Slam event comes down to talent, endurance and hard work.
Even Nadal admits that playing on the grass surface will be a test. His solution? Work harder.
As quoted by Sky Sports, Rafa will be working to arrive in good condition in order to give himself the best chance of adding another Wimbledon title to his resume:
I am going without having trained on grass and it is a surface that you have to understand, learn once again and know how to play the points and focus in the right manner in certain situations. I have gone practically two years without playing on grass because last year I arrived in very bad condition due to the knee, just as much in Halle as at Wimbledon. So I have to work from today, doing things right and trying my hardest in every training session, which is the only way to arrive at the first round in good condition.
Nadal has been absolutely tremendous this season, securing seven victories (including an eighth French Open title) and nine finals appearances in besting some of the world’s top competition. So far this year, Andy Murray is the only top-ranked player Nadal has yet to beat—only because the pair hasn’t faced off.
As Rafa alluded to, he may be rusty making the transition back to grass, though. He has displayed the talent and fitness to return to Wimbledon with a victory. The only question is if those two factors can equalize his lack of recent experience on grass.
Part of Rafa’s fitness also involves the health of his knees, which, as we have seen several times this year, doesn’t seem to be causing him much trouble.
But those knee issues did sideline him for seven months following Wimbledon last year—seven months he spent getting healthy and working on returning to top physical form.
As quoted by The Telegraph in December, Nadal was expecting to make a return to full strength by April, though he surpassed his goals by a wide margin:
I have the goal of returning in Abu Dhabi but neither Abu Dhabi nor Australia are the end of the world for me. I will only come back when I am fit. I won't come back worrying about my knee.
With concerns of his knee issues subsiding and a big test ahead, there’s no reason for Rafa to not maintain his current condition and use his fitness level to offset any issues he may have with the transition to the grass surface.
Of course, at its core, playing on grass requires an entirely different game than does playing on clay. But Rafa has the talent to triumph on any surface. All he can do to prepare for Wimbledon is train as much as he can on grass and focus on being in better shape than anyone else in the field.
Considering how well he has played already this season, simply maintaining that fitness level gives him an edge over the rest of the field.