Rafael Nadal – An Elite Player Again or Not

The first thing Rafael Nadal probably wants to do after he plays his first tennis match since this last June is put his hands over his knees and see that everything is alright. Once that first match is out of the way, it’s on to conquering the top of the tennis world once again, step by step. Nadal is confident he has what it takes.

It starts with an exhibition tournament, and it’ll go on from there. From rumors in the Nadal camp, his knees aren’t perfect, and never will be. That’s why his goals for the first few weeks, probably month or two in the 2013 Tennis season, aren’t to gather as much titles as possible, making up for lost time. It’ll be about feeling comfortable on the court again, especially the hard ones which probably contain most of the danger to his knees.

My goal is not this week, not Doha or the Australian Open. My goal is to get fit, recover all my feelings. The only thing I care about is the knee. The idea is to go from there. I won’t give much value to what will happen next month or in two months. My real goal is to start in perfect condition at Indian Wells and Miami and reach Monte-Carlo with good feelings, to face the clay season in good condition. I know I’m going to play in Abu Dhabi without the knee being great, but I feel better. The doctors say it is fine and that is great news for me. I still feel something, it’s not perfect.

Clay, that’s where it’s at, and always has been for Nadal. It’s important for him to get through the early hard court season without any injury problems so he can dominate where he’s at his best. You pick the fights you can win, or at least those that serve you the least amount of damage. Nadal knows that giving his all, meaning the 120% you usually see of blood, sweat and Vamos, won’t be appearing too often until late March-early April, unless he can’t help himself.

I haven’t forgotten how to play. I have played over 600 ATP matches and I have spent two years without playing. My feeling is good. I won Roland Garros and those emotions are still me. 

It’s still his title to lose. He’ll probably be entering the next Roland Garros, unless he miraculously plays splendid tennis for the next five months without a shred of knee problems being exhibited, as somewhat of an underdog to Novak Djokovic and who knows who and what else. But the drive to be world number one, or at least a Grand Slam champion, is still there, stronger than ever. Let’s hope his knees enable him to get there.