Rafael Nadal Heading Toward a Better 2012

Turning it around should be Rafael Nadal’s motto for 2012. “Only” one Grand Slam title after his 2010 year, winning three Grand Slam titles, completing the career grand slam and reclaiming the no.1 spot in the ATP rankings just doesn’t cut it for a man with his abilities, with his expectations from himself.

The early exit at the Tour finals and even more than that, the exhausted and terrible performance against Roger Federer, who just Tornadoed his way through Nadal and the last month of the season, showed us it’s more than just the usual Federer performance at the year-end championship. The 2011 season totaled Nadal, and worse, took out the fight, the passion out of him.

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Nadal even admitted himself – he has lost the passion for the game during 2011. He wouldn’t exactly disclose the reason, but I have my own idea or two. Besides the overall wear and tear of his body, mind and soul, Nadal found himself in the situation Federer did three and a half years ago.

The acknowledgment that a player has come from below and has become better. Novak Djokovic’s complete and total dominance over Rafael Nadal in all those finals in such a short time, especially at Wimbledon and the US Open, nearly crushed him.

We can find excuses, we can find problems, but it’s not the moment to say that – it’s the moment to keep fighting. The end of the year wasn’t easy for me; that’s hard to accept. But it gives me more of a goal for the beginning of 2012. I dream about arriving in 2012 with very good conditions. It’s true that this season has been tough. More than a lack of passion, it is a weariness from many years of playing at this level, week after week.

Djokovic, my guess, won’t repeat 2011 next year. What Roger Federer did, winning 11 majors in four years, is hard to comprehend. And it’s pretty much impossible to do under the current conditions. That’s what made his so special. Nadal has the ability, but his body can’t take such punishment. It was pretty much a given since Mid-2008, that if Nadal is healthy, he’s the man to beat.

Everything changed in 2011, and in the next Australian Open, Nadal will have to prove his ability and more importantly, that he hasn’t lost his famous on court fighting style and spirit. Without them, not even the Roland Garros crown is safe.