The news of Rafael Nadal withdrawing from appearing at the 2016 edition of Wimbledon isn’t a surprise. It’s just another piece in the puzzle of his collapsing career, as the 30-year old is struggling to put the pieces together.
Injuries and overall less than impressive ability has been the significant factor in Nadal’s Tennis career over the last two years. After missing the 2012 US Open and Australia in 2013, he won two majors out of three to finish 2013 impressively (French and US), while also making the final in Australia to kick off the 2014 season. He won his ninth French Open a few months later. Since then? Nothing. At some point, the pattern is too strong to suggest a comeback.
Nadal last won a Grand Slam tournament in 2014, his 14th overall, putting him level with Pete Sampras. Since then?
- A fourth round exit in Wimbledon 2014, losing to Nick Kyrgios
- Not playing in the 2014 US Open
- Losing to Tomas Berdych in the quarter final of the 2015 Australian Open
- Losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarter final of the 2015 French Open
- Stunned by Dustin Brown in the second round at Wimbledon 2015
- Losing to Fabio Fognini in the third round of the 2015 US Open
- Losing to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open, only the second time that’s happened to him in a major
- Dropped in the third round of the 2016 Roland Garros, withdrawing before the match
Things haven’t been much better this year for Roger Federer, but overall, despite not winning a grand slam tournament since 2012, he’s been relevant, and often the best player in the world not named Novak Djokovic. Since the 2014 French Open, Federer has made three slam finals and two more semifinals. He was absent from the French Open this year for the first time since 1998. Federer is also four years older than Nadal, and has three more Slam titles.
Is Nadal going to win a Grand Slam again? Is he going to make it to a semifinal? Is he even relevant again in majors? Hard to say. A lot of players, including Nadal and Federer, have bounced back impressively when they’ve been told it’s all over for them. But it gets harder and harder making comebacks the older they get, and it’s especially true for Nadal, who has been plagued by injuries for a very long time. He’ll show up on the courts once more, maybe even in the US during the Hard Courts season. But it’s more than likely that his time as someone who has any kind of influence on the shape and outcome of a Grand Slam tournament is over. It happens to everyone, and it catches you by surprise more often than not. This kind of decline, however, has always been waiting just around the corner for Nadal.