The road to the top of the ATP World Tour rankings is a long one to say the very least. Reaching the number one spot is normally greeted with fanfare and celebration. In Rafa Nadal’s case, it wasn’t to be and it almost passed him by that he had toppled Federer to regain number one spot. The change at the top came about by default after Federer failed to defend his Indian Wells and Miami titles in March.
Nadal said he “almost did not know” that the change had occurred. The news has flown under the radar somewhat in world tennis. It’s safe to say if it hasn’t dawned on the players involved, it won’t have registered with the public.
The ball is now in Nadal’s court, with the clay court season approaching. The Spaniard, who has been dubbed the ‘King of Clay’, will be looking to cement his position at the top. There will be further incentive for Nadal, as Federer has decided to skip the entire season on clay.
A hip injury has plagued Nadal this season, which has caused the Spaniard to be outspoken. Nadal voiced his concerns at the ATP Tour schedule and the amount of tennis played. It wasn’t only his own body he was concerned about but those of the other players too. Nadal encouraged those running the tour to think about what is going on. Speaking at the Australian Open Rafa said: “too many people are getting injured”.
The Spaniard has always been vocal about the hard surfaces they play on. It will now be a race against time for Nadal to be fit to play on the surface he has enjoyed so much success on. Despite his current injuries Nadal is still backed to clean up on clay this season. In the latest tennisbetting, Nadal is 8/11 to win the French Open. It’s hard to see where the other challengers will come from.
Novak Djokovic has been a shadow of his former self and Andy Murray will still be on the comeback trail after injury. It’s all set up for Nadal to carry on his dominance, despite not being completely fit.
Putting a good amount of daylight between himself and Federer will be the goal. The Fed Express won’t be losing much sleep about missing the action on clay this season. Federer will feel he has earned the break after a remarkable return to the top. A good showing on the grass courts over the English summer will be enough to get him back to number one in the world. There won’t be too many who don’t have Federer as the favourite for Wimbledon.
For now, Nadal sits at the summit of the world rankings and it is a position for him to lose. His body is showing signs of wear and tear and it’s hard to know how long Rafa will continue playing. He dropped a few retirement hints in February and there’s reason to believe he’s serious. Maybe an unexpected return to the top will have him more positive about the future.