Rafael Nadal's Play at Roland Garros Will Translate to Grass at Wimbledon

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IJune 17, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic on day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Confidence is the biggest key to Rafael Nadal's game. And after cruising to an eighth career French Open title earlier this month, Rafa looks ready to challenge for a third Wimbledon crown.

The numbers have been unfathomable since Nadal returned from a seven-month layoff last February.

He's played in nine tournaments this year, reaching nine finals and winning seven titles, including a hard-court championship at Indian Wells back in March. Rafa is 43-2 overall this season. That's better than world No. 1 Novak Djokovic (33-5), Andy Murray (22-5) and Roger Federer (22-7), who have combined to win seven titles this season.

And while much of Nadal's success has come on his preferred surface, clay, it's important to remember that he's been the second-best grass player on the planet over the past decade right behind Roger Federer. Nadal was the only player to beat Federer during his dominant run at Wimbledon, outlasting the seven-time champion in a five-set thriller in the 2008 final.

A two-time Wimbledon champion, Nadal has reached the final at the All England Club five times since 2006. That's more times than he's reached the Australian Open and U.S. Open finals combined.

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Clearly, Rafa knows how to operate on the faster-playing grass in London. He's 36-6 all-time at Wimbledon, with two of those six losses coming to the Swiss legend, Federer. 

Make no mistake, red clay has aided in Nadal's return to top form, but his victory at Indian Wells proved he's more than a one-dimensional superstar. 

Sure, he'll have to make some quick adjustments in the early rounds at Wimbledon this summer in order to adapt to the unique surface, but as we saw at Roland Garros, there's no one better at chasing down sure-winners and turning defense into offense than Rafa.

His fitness level and relentlessness are also world class. Nadal will be well-rested as well, having two full weeks off after the French Open and before Wimbledon gets underway on June 24.

And now, in the midst of a 22-match winning streak, the 27-year-old won't be short on confidence this summer in London.

Plus, with the sights and sounds of last year's second-round upset to Lukas Rosol still fresh in his mind, expect a determined Rafael Nadal to make another deep run in the men's draw as he's done so often. Keep in mind that 2012's early exit marked the first time since 2005 that Nadal was entered in the draw and failed to play for a title on Centre Court on the final day.

He missed the tournament in 2009 while recovering from injury, otherwise we might be looking at a three-time Wimbledon winner. Therefore, the transition from red clay to grass won't slow a surging Rafael Nadal.

Nadal will always be the King of Clay, but don't think for a second that he'll be out of his element on the grass at his second-best Slam this summer.

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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