Rafael Nadal is off to another hot start in 2014, and he looks primed to make another deep run in the ATP Sony Open.
The current No. 1 overall player in the world last played in the BNP Paribas open, making it to the third round, but he withdrew early from the tournament before playing Alexandr Dolgopolov. He received a first-round bye in the Sony Open, and with how well he's playing right now, he has a legitimate chance to win yet another title in 2014.
Nadal was terrific in 2013, winning 10 singles titles while posting a 75-7 record. He also won two Grand Slam titles, winning his fourth straight French Open as well as the U.S. Open.
So far, Nadal has been simply on fire this year as well, going 17-2 in singles events, winning the ATP Rio Open and ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open. He made it all the way to the finals of the Australian Open, but he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in four sets.
It might have been disappointing for Nadal not to win the Australian Open, but considering he's won the Grand Slam title once and gone to the finals one other time before 2014, this was one of the better finishes at he's had in Melbourne.
Still, the Sony Open won't be easy for Nadal to win. According to ATPWorldTour.com, 19 of the top 20 players in the world will be competing, including Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Nadal has also never won this event, falling in the finals three times, including a loss to Djokovic in 2011.
Fortunately, Nadal has a lucky draw for the Sony Open. SI.com had Nadal as one of the biggest winners from the Sony Open draw, saying:
It’s about time Nadal got a draw that didn’t make his fans rip off their headbands in disgust. At the Australian Open, I referred to his section as “The Group of Death.” In Indian Wells, it was a “minefield.” Compared to those tournaments, this is a nice stroll along the sandy beaches of Key Biscayne. Murray, Djokovic and Federer are all in the opposite side of the draw, and the highest seed in Nadal’s quarter is No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro, who arrives with injury concerns.
With 16 titles, Nadal has had previous success on hard courts, but it's not his best playing surface. He has a winning percentage of just 78.1 percent on hard courts as opposed to 93.4 percent on clay and 79.4 percent on grass.
At just 27 years old, it looks like Nadal is beginning to hit the prime of his career, and with how well he's played this year, he should be able to make a very deep run in the Sony Open, potentially all the way to the finals.