How will Nadal fare on grass in 2019?
Having won the French Open with relative ease, many will now wonder if Rafael Nadal can translate his rampant clay form into the grass season.
He has already admitted that he has no intention of playing in the warm-up tournaments in the run-up to the third Grand Slam of the year, which kicks off at the start of July at Wimbledon.
However, the margin of his win at the end over Dominic Thiem, stealing the last two sets 6-1 with barely a reply, indicates that he is now back near the top of his game after injuries curtailed the end of his 2018 season when he was flying high as world number one.
Novak Djokovic has since ascended up the rankings points and been in imperious form. That said, Djokovic has clearly not been untouchable since his Australian Open win, where he made a mockery of the supposed close difference between him and Nadal.
Thiem showed that Djokovic was eminently beatable right now, displaying the kind of form across two days that was enough to beat the rankings leader and the one holding three consecutive Grand Slams up to that point.
With Djokovic looking like he has dropped in intensity and consistency slightly, many are now wondering if the door has opened up again for Nadal to perform on grass and claim a Wimbledon crown.
Nadal’s uncle and coach Toni spoke after Rafa’s Roland-Garros triumph of confidence being the key currency in tennis, and this was why he felt that a win at SW19 was eminently possible.
A resurgent Roger Federer should not be forgotten about though, with Wimbledon being one of his most successful tournaments. Nadal is just two titles behind Federer’s once unreachable 20, which means that the Swiss will be trying to reach more titles before his time is up.
Nadal will know that he cannot keep these injuries away for any guaranteed period of time. There was a period earlier this decade when it seemed that his knees were done on grass, but he is managing his body a lot better now.
The Spaniard, who is the last player to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same calendar, in 2010, is not going to play any tournaments beforehand, but he did not do that in 2018 either when he came so close to the final. He may not improve his chances in the sports betting stakes, but recent form shows that he cannot be discounted.
Words: Danielle Nixon