Rafael Nadal Is Back To Square One

Boris GodzinevskiCorrespondent IIJanuary 27, 2011

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Rafael Nadal of Spain walks off court after losing in his quarterfinal match against David Ferrer of Spain during day ten of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Winning three consecutive Slams on three different surfaces warrants you at least a year of being the favorite going into every match, even if you only have one leg. For Rafael Nadal this gets all the naysayers of his injury woes back into the ring.

For the many Rafa fans who say he can best Federer's 16 Slam titles, this is a definite huge blow. Though Nadal will have time to heal before the next Slam in Paris, the daunting task of winning seven Slams to tie Federer becomes ever more unlikely.

It was much the same in last year's Aussie Open where Nadal had to retire in the quarterfinal against Murray. Rafa stormed back to finish the year undefeated in Grand Slam matches since that loss to Andy. Yet could he do the same this season? And if so, how close do three more Slams get him?

Winning seven Slams is a two-year job, one of enormous magnitude. Fans will argue Nadal has four years left until he hits the 28 wall so many pros, not unlike Federer has (though he performed well in contrast to others).

With his lingering injury problems only expected to get worse with age, Nadal's window of four years may still not be enough, a two Slam a year average is still a lot to ask for, and this all assuming Federer is effectively done.

So what of Nadal's No. 1 seed status? As many probably took Federer's streak for granted, being the holder of three Grand Slam titles not only makes you the No. 1 seed by a wide margin, but also makes the fall so much easier. A Nadal loss in a semifinal of one of his three current Slam crowns could mean another break in his No. 1 seed status (unless Ferrer wins the Australian).

So what does this all mean? Speculation abundant indeed, it all means Nadal has got to go back to the well and win yet another French Open title, but this loss puts added pressure to tie the great Borg's all-time record at that event.

Walking in the desert of immortality, Nadal edges closer to the most coveted of tennis legends, yet must continue to battle his critics to gain the respect his predecessor Federer still retains.