Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal Is On a Collision Course With History

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Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal Is On a Collision Course With History
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Much of the 2009 season was a roller-coaster for Rafael Nadal.

He started out the year winning the Australian Open, and most felt he had permanently passed Roger Federer as the game's best player. Things quickly went south for Rafa.

An early dismissal at the French Open, the first loss of his career in that tournament, followed by a withdrawal at Wimbledon due to injury put his career in jeopardy. A divorce by his parents tormented him on and off the court, and some began to speculate if Nadal may already be on the downside of a once-promising career. 

2010 started with a run to the quarterfinals at the Australian, but his health again stopped him short of winning another tournament. As he prepared for the French Open, he took more time off to rest his body and it showed once he arrived in Paris.

Nadal steamrolled on his way to the fifth French Open title of his career. He again passed Federer as the top-ranked player in the world, but was seeded second at Wimbledon.

Sunday morning Nadal left no doubt that he is now head-and-shoulders the best player in the world with his straight sets win over Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. The win is Nadal's second at the All England Club, and his eighth career Grand Slam title. 

Nadal's preparation for the upcoming US Open is set to be similar as it was for the French Open. He plans to take more time off in order to come to New York 100-percent healthy and win his first US Open, which would complete his career Grand Slam.

With eight career Grand Slam titles, Nadal is firmly entrenched as one of the top 10 players of all-time. He has won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and he has dominated head-to-head the perceived greatest player in history. 

Nadal turned 24 last month, and it appears he can threaten to win Majors for the next five-plus years. Can he make a legitimate run at Federer's 16 career Grand Slam titles?

Nadal isn't just playing the best tennis of his career, he's getting better as time passes. He's already the best conditioned player on tour, and he physically punishes his opponents more than any other player. He plays great defense and has a wonderful return of serve.

The serve is now turning into a major weapon for him, and Nadal will actually become more difficult to defeat as it improves more. Although it's not the biggest serve on tour, he's improved the power greatly, and he's able to move it around the service box to keep his opponent off balance and guessing.

Talking to John McEnroe after his victory, Nadal made it clear what his most important to him now.

"I will take a couple weeks off to get treatment on my knee," Nadal told McEnroe. "I came into the Open tired in 2008 off the Olympics, and injured in 2007 and 2009. I want to come into the tournament healthy, and give it my best shot. Winning the Open is my priority for the next several years."

Although he hasn't won the US Open, Nadal should enter the tournament as the favorite. Last year's champion, Juan Martin del Potro, will be unable to defend his title due to injury. Federer will also take time off prior to the Open and will try to come into the event healthy as well after a back and leg issues led to his demise at Wimbledon.

Nadal seems destined to win the Open this year. He has dealt and overcome mental and physical adversity to rise back to the top of the sport. He's number one in 2010, but it seems a title win in New York in September could send him on his way to become the number one player ever.

Rafa isn't just playing his opponent across the net anymore; he's now in a bigger match with history and the record books to rewrite everything that has happened before him.

 

 

To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here

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