The 2018 Australian Open tennis tournament just concluded with Roger Federer winning his 20th grand slam, extending his already fantastic grand slam record. Is it even possible for current world number one Rafael Nadal to reach him with his current tally of 16 grand slam titles?
And all of us already know that superstar Rafael Nadal had to retire early due to pain in his upper right leg in the fifth set of his quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic (3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2, 2-0, retired). Afterwards, Nadal regretfully lamented, “Tough moments — not [for] the first time here. I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me. It’s really tough to accept.”
To be fair, injuries have roiled men’s tennis since last year when none of the top five in the final 2016 rankings qualified for the U.S. Open. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Tomáš Berdych all withdrew from the season-ending Paris Masters along with Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios.
Obviously, Nadal’s withdrawal was a heartbreaking development for the devoted fans of the globally-hailed Spaniard, whom many had hoped would inch one notch closer to Federer’s all-time record of 19 Grand Slam titles — Nadal currently has 16. However, the primary inspiration for this stroll through memory lane is to remind all Nadal followers that we’ve “seen this movie before” — and it ended well.
Harken back to the year 2010 (yeah, I said “harken”). In January of that year, where Nadal similarly had to suspend his quest to break the record number of Grand Slam titles while (ironically) playing in the exact stadium as he did last week. During the 2010 Australian Open, Nadal reluctantly terminated his quarterfinal match due to injury when he had to pull out while 3–0 down in the third set against Murray. In June of that year, the “King of Clay” eventually recovered and went on to take the Roland-Garros (French Open) title only a few months later, defeating opponent Robin Soderling without having conceded a single set. What better way to let all the doubters across the globe know “I’m back”?
Only a few weeks later, Nadal took the Wimbledon title after having defeated Soderling, Murray and Berdych in convincing form. So, when he inevitably hoisted his racket to battle in the 2010 U.S. Open in September of 2010, the final Grand Slam of the year, his fans were already imagining the impossible — or the possible. And yes, the Spanish sensation once again vanquished all his competitors at Flushing Meadows to collect his ninth career Grand Slam win.
So, to be 100 percent clear, the last time that Rafael Nadal succumbed to injury during an Australian Open match, not only did he reach the finals of every remaining Grand Slam of that year, but he also triumphed in all of them — in the fashion of a true champion. So, for the Nadal fans who are still heartbroken over his recent early withdrawal, the best advice that I can offer is the following…move on. What’s done is done. (At the time of writing this article, BetStars had Federer at 15/8 odds to win it all). But if the past has taught us anything, it’s the following: It is difficult enough to come back from injury to win just one tournament…
Let alone a Grand Slam,
Let alone three Grand Slams,
In the same year.
Nadal has already done that.
That is a testament to his character as an archetypical fighter and real professional. So, keep your hopes up — he just might surprise us all again. Stay tuned.