I was holding my tongue as of late to make a statement on Nadal.
I had already picked Federer to win back Wimbledon last season when he defended his U.S. Open, but only after Nadal's exit at the French did I begin to ponder how Nadal may fizzle into thin air.
This only accentuates the greatness that is Roger Federer. I had always laughed when Nadal fans boasted his claim to beat Federer's all-time Slam record.
I laughed because even though Nadal had achieved more at his age than Federer had, his physical play, as I made clear, is not wise for a pro tennis player, and I say this as a former semi-pro player myself.
Now it is official: Nadal's withdrawal from Wimbledon entirely spells the end of his "era." Federer will now regain his No. 1 world ranking and keep it for some time, considering his competition.
Nadal will have no chance (and you can quote me on this) to win the U.S. Open, at least this year, and will have to regroup to have any hope of regaining his precious French Open crown.
Perhaps I am wrong here in that Nadal will not only regroup physically, but mentally and change his game in the process, but how formidable could he be if he changes his game?
I now bring out the comparison I have been keeping in my mind for the past year now: Rafael Nadal is Jim Courier.
Bear with me; I do not mean to say Nadal is at the same level as Courier was, for I think Nadal is slightly better; however, their accomplishments seem quite similair. Although Nadal did win four consecutive French Opens and two more Slams for a total of six (to Courier's four), there's a fair (but ultimately lacking) argument for both being great.
Courier made three other Slam Finals, better than Nadal; he made the Final at every Grand Slam, winning two of them, the French and Australian, back-to-back.
He attained the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in February '92 and kept it for six weeks; then he gained it back for 22 weeks later that year; he took it a third time October of that year and held it for 27 weeks; and then finally snatched it for a fourth time for three weeks in August of '93.
His total tenure as tops on the globe was 58 weeks; Nadal's current tenure is 45 weeks, to be 47 weeks after Federer regains it.
Courier's decline from the elite was quite abrupt; from his last top ranking after making the Wimbledon final in 1993, he never made another Slam Final, only making the semifinal at the Australian and French the following year and another semi at the U.S. in 1994. He was never a true contender afterwards, though he played on the tour for four more seasons.
Am I saying Nadal will not win another Slam? No, but I doubt he wins many more; in fact, if I may make a prediction, I say he will not win more than two more Slams for the rest of his entire career.
My judgement is this: He will not win the U.S. Open and will be hard-pressed to make the semifinal like he did last year. He will not defend his Aussie Open crown; how far he goes in that Slam, I cannot say, but I do not see him repeating.
Then in the French, he may win it, he may not, all of us onlookers honestly do not know the extent the injury will have on his career. I say he does not win the 2010 French Open crown. And then he'll go back to Wimbledon and be unable to win it also and again be denied at the '10 U.S.
So when does he go back to winning Slams? I would say he needs to change his gameplan, adapt it, and then master it. In all honesty, I think it won't be until 2011 we see Nadal winning Slam again, at which time I expect Federer to still be No. 1.
If you disagree with my assessment, by all means say so, but all I can see for Nadal's future is a 2009 French Open win, maybe, and then what? A top-ranked player he will never be again.