Rafael Nadal's balky left knee could cost him a chance to win the 2013 U.S. Open.
But with nearly two months between his shocking first-round exit at Wimbledon and the start of the U.S. Open, Nadal's coach, Toni Nadal, staunchly believes his nephew will be fully ready for the Grand Slam event, as noted by ESPN:
Toni Nadal insists that the 12-time grand slam champion is not set for another extended spell on the sidelines, even if he must ease himself slowly back into his training regime.
"Rafa will come back. He has no fear of this break - he has nothing more to lose. Currently Rafa is doing physical training, but no court workouts. The break is important - he has played enough."
Nadal was limping around badly in his third set against Steve Darcis at Wimbledon, and many speculated about whether or not the Spaniard would be able to play much more in 2013.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times said he'd "be surprised if Nadal played more than three tournaments" the rest of the year:
This isn't a new thing.
Nadal missed seven months of action with his injured left knee after the 2012 Wimbledon Championships after bowing out in Round 2. His painful injury—an inflamed kneecap (patellar tendinitis) severely limited his range leading up to his extended break.
Upon his return, Nadal put forth a tremendous effort, winning seven titles (including the 2013 French Open) and compiling a gaudy record of 43-2 before losing in Round 1 to Darcis.
But even during his record eighth title at Roland Garros, a careful observer couldn't help but notice the odd grimace on particularly grueling volleys to go along with his strategically taped knee.
When Nadal is playing at the top of his game, he's difficult to defeat. His ability to cover ground from side to side is rare, as is his ability to make stellar shots when doing so. Unfortunately, his stellar play also puts an inordinate amount of stress on his knees, which is why he continues to struggle with health issues.
With this in mind, it isn't particularly shocking to find out that Nadal isn't playing any tennis right now. He is currently attempting to get his knee back into the kind of shape it was in before he made his triumphant return to the ATP Tour in February.
Nadal must be 100 percent healthy to have a chance of winning his second career U.S. Open title.
If he and his trainers can successfully get all traces of swelling and irritation to cease and desist, then he'll have as good a chance as any player to win. On the other hand, if Nadal isn't 100 percent healthy, he won't stand a chance of winning the tournament and will certainly suffer another early exit.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78