Rafael Nadal received the second overall seed in the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and a tough opening couple of matches, but nothing is stopping one of the best in the sport's history from contending to win his third Wimbledon title.
Winning his ninth ever French Open wasn't enough to propel Nadal to the top seed, which was instead taken by Novak Djokovic. He's in the same half of the bracket as Roger Federer, avoiding reigning Wimbledon champ Andy Murray or Djokovic until the final.
But it won't be an easy road out of the gates, as CNN describes:
Nadal, coming off a record-extending ninth French Open title and 14th major overall, begins with dangerous Slovak left-hander Martin Klizan and then could face the man who beat him in 2012 in the second round, Lukas Rosol.
Ivo Karlovic, who possesses one of the game's biggest serves ever, might confront Nadal in the third round.
Some highly touted names have fallen off early in Grand Slam events as of late, but Nadal and Djokovic are locks to get into the semifinals in seemingly every big tournament they're in. The Spaniard might have to slay some demons of his past by topping Rosol in the second round and face some tough early competition, but he has his eyes set on the prize.
And he knows the historical context of every major he plays in from here on out, too. The next Grand Slam trophy he hoists will give him 15, separating him from Pete Sampras in sole position of second all time.
Nadal didn't start out 2014 well, losing three times on clay before heading to the French Open. But once he arrived at Roland Garros, he was himself again, dominating the field en route to his ninth French Open title.
Heading into Wimbledon, he's ready, per The Guardian's Simon Cambers:
It's much more than just that motivating Nadal heading into the marquee tournament of the grass-court season. He's been far from convincing in Wimbledon ever since his second title there in 2010.
Simply put, grass courts aren't Nadal's expertise. While he's unstoppable on clay, he's shown signs of vulnerability on grass.
But that won't see him to an early defeat in 2014. He's playing too well this year to give up three sets to an inferior opponent, and it will take the best from either Djokovic or Murray in the final to top him.
Tennis World Italia's Luigi Gatto summed up Nadal's thoughts on whether he struggles on grass:
Even after further etching his place in tennis lore earlier this year, there are still plenty of doubters that believe Nadal isn't the same type of player off clay. While that may be true, he's still motivated to prove that he can be the best player—no matter what terrain.
Nadal might be tested in the early rounds, but even if he's not at his best, his sheer ability will see him through into the latter rounds.
Federer is the biggest test that the Spaniard would face before the final, but a favorable career record against the Swiss star suggests that he will top the Wimbledon great.
From then on, it's just a matter of if Nadal can beat Djokovic or Murray—and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he did en route to his third Wimbledon title.