A knee injury threatened to derail Rafael Nadal's career, initiating a decline for the tennis great.
He has instead returned even better than before, playing the best tennis of his life during a phenomenal campaign that has hiked him back to the No. 1 ranking despite losing to Novak Djokovic in the Beijing final.
Nadal suffered a knee injury last year that knocked him out of commission for seven months. After dropping out of the 2013 Australian Open, he fell outside the top four for the first time since 2008. Thus began fear that the champion would be the first of tennis' current batch of titans to fall from the throne.
Here he is months later as the top player in the world.
Setting aside one hiccup at Wimbledon, Nadal has reached the final in every tournament. The 27-year-old returned to Roland Garros to secure his fourth French Open title, quickly reestablishing his dominance as the King of Clay.
But if that wasn't enough to convince skeptics of his successful return (especially after Wimbledon), Nadal took his reign of terror to the hard court, besting Novak Djokovic in an epic bout to claim his second U.S. Open title.
Known for his fierce defense, the 27-year-old's knee ailments put his agility in question. Yet he has still seemingly flown across the court, showing no hesitance in his step. This elusiveness has luckily not eluded him, as he has advanced treatment to thank for his recovery.
During his inactivity, Nadal underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP), the same treatment Kobe Bryant used to remain an NBA superstar in his mid-30s. Also known as blood spinning, PRP rearranges platelet-rich cells that help generate a speedier recovery.
Nadal's team spoke with The Daily Mail's Mike Dickson about the process, which was legalized in 2011 and is now quite common:
The Nadal camp is comfortable admitting that, as part of his ongoing regime, he undergoes PRP therapy, and there is no reason not to. Infact it has become so mainstream that health insurer BUPA these days will pay out for it to be used for ordinary citizens tackling tennis elbow.
According to the experts we spoke to it is quite possible that the combination of his prolonged rest, PRP and exhaustive physiotherapy on the tendons, sometimes termed as eccentric strengthening exercises, could have an extremely good outcome, at least in the short to mid-term.
Whatever the method, Nadal has fought back to reclaim his spot among the sport's elite. He rolled past Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round of the Shanghai Masters to potentially place him on yet another collision course with Djokovic in the title bout.
Based on how they have played this year, many more championship matchups will await the two stars. On top of his game, Djokovic could have possibly won three Grand Slams if not for Nadal's return.
As for Nadal, he's clearly back, so let's enjoy his greatness while we can.