King of Clay, Rafael Nadal secured a record 12th French Open title last weekend, beating Austria’s Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. After losing the final of the Australian Open earlier this year to Novak Djokovic, Nadal deemed this win all the more special, having suffered numerous injury problems, particularly over the last two years. Last year alone, he had to pull out of 10 tournaments, due to a combination of illness and injury.
But more surprising than that, was his admission that he won’t return to the court until Wimbledon – confident he can challenge for a third title in SW19. At 6/1, Nadal is the third-favourite in Wimbledon men’s winner odds – behind Djokovic and Roger Federer.
French Open win
Nadal’s latest French Open win is his twelfth since 2005 and he certainly adopts an all-or-nothing approach to the Grand Slam. Following his first win, Rafa went on to win it four years in a row, before breaking records with five consecutive victories in the tournament between 2010 and 2014. His win against Thiem just last Sunday was the third year in a row that he’d won at Roland-Garros, again asserting his dominance on clay. This latest win puts him on 18 Grand Slam titles, just two behind Federer on 20. Their on-going rivalry surely has more spice going into the last two major tournaments of the year.
Of his twelfth victory at Roland-Garros, Nadal said: “I’ve had too many issues. So that makes these last few weeks very, very special.
“One possibility was to stop for a while and recover my body. And the other was to drastically change my attitude and my mentality. I was able to change and fight for every small improvement that I was able to make.”
Road to Wimbledon
Nadal has done it before, only last year after winning in Paris did he pull-out of the Fever-Tree Championships (Queen’s Club) and go on to play no grass court tennis before Wimbledon. He arrived without practise at SW19 but proceeded to reach the semi-finals, his best finish since reaching the final in 2011.
Speaking to the media after his French Open win, Nadal said: “I know I played a great event last year. I have been able to be very close to win another title there.
“I was very close to being in the quarter-finals, and last year I was one point away from the final.
“So, I will not play before Wimbledon, of course. I felt competitive the last couple of years, so why do I need to change that?”
Of the tournaments he’ll be missing while recuperating in his native Mallorca, it’ll be another year that he’s not participated at Queen’s. He last won the tournament in 2008, back when it was part of the ATP World Tour 250 Series. Since 2015, it has been a 500 series event, and it was that same year that Nadal last entered – being knocked-out in the first round to Ukrainian Alexandr Oleksandrovych.
With a runner-up finish and title to his name in the two Grand Slam competitions so far this season, there’s no reason why Nadal can’t mount a challenge on grass next month. Wimbledon, and particularly grass-court tournaments can be unpredictable, but when looking at the favourites, there’s no doubt that Nadal fears no-one. His most recent opponent, Thiem is priced at 33/1; while the world number 8 and last year’s runner-up Kevin Anderson can also be found at the same price.