Having spent six months on the sidelines, Rafael Nadal is something of an X-factor for the Australian Open in January. Will the Spaniard be too out of practice to be competitive – or will he just be well rested? We looked at his past returns from injury to find out.
Rafael Nadal has had more notable injuries than any other top ATP players, racking up at least six, month or longer injuries since 2005. And after each of these absences, Rafa has failed to win his returning tournament.
The best the World No. 4 has managed was a final appearance at the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals, where after beating four of the world’s top eight players, he fell to a determined Roger Federer on the Swiss ace’s favourite surface.
He’s returned to reach the semi-finals just once – in Marseille in 2005 – although he’s progressed to the quarter-finals at every other returning competition.
Nadal, however, has scheduled an appearance at a warm-up tournament in early January: the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. The competition will undoubtedly be a way for the 26 year-old to open the pipes (and test out his knees) against Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, before heading into the Australian Open later in the month.
Investigating the left-hander’s performances in the tournaments after his return shows that the Spaniard plays some of his best tennis two-to-three competitions after an injury.
In 2008, Nadal returned from a three-month injury (which also fell over Christmas) to crash-out in the quarter-finals of his first tournament (to Gael Monfils) before overcoming Roger Federer to lift the Australian Open title in just his second competition back.
He won a second Grand Slam in a similar fashion in Aug 2010, returning from a two-month absence to lose to Marcos Baghdatis in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters before besting Novak Djokovic for the US Open title.
In 2009 Nadal also returned to reach the quarter-finals in Montreal (lost to Juan Martin Del Potro), only to reach the semi-finals of the following Cincinnati Masters (lost to Djokovic) and the US Open (lost to Del Potro).
Along with his impassioned return to the ATP World Tour Finals in 2010, this could suggest that Nadal is getting increasing better at returning from injury, especially after the initial rust has been shaken off.
Rafael Nadal is currently 8.300* to win the Australian Open, a competition he has won once before (2009).