So, not only is Rafael Nadal back, but he’s answered all of those who questioned whether he would ever get back to a position of competing for – and winning – the sport’s top prizes.
Such was the seriousness of his most recent injury setback, there were even suggestions, only 6 months ago, of the possibility of an early retirement for one of the game’s finest ever players.
However, not only has Nadal overcome a long injury lay-off and proved he is fit enough to compete at the highest level, but the Spaniard has also shown the fighting qualities of a true champion to get back to mixing it with the very the best in the world.
Had it not been for a seven month gap in ranking points, Nadal would surely be in contention for challenging Novak Djokovic for the world number one spot – something which no man has looked likely to do in the two years since the Serb first topped the rankings, during which time he has been utterly dominant in the men’s game.
It was against Djokovic in the semi final that Nadal showed beyond doubt that he’s recovered sufficiently to be able to regain his best form. In an encounter which bore resemblances to the 2012 Australian Open final, Nadal looked to be heading for defeat once he’d was broken in the final set – just as Djokovic had done in that epic battle on the hard court of Melbourne.
But in a first five-set contest since bowing out at Wimbledon last year, Nadal showed his ability to come back from a seemingly impossible position, before going on to complete an incredible turnaround.
It says much for the performances of Nadal that he is comfortably on top in the year-to-date rankings, despite missing the whole of January – including the 2,000 points on offer at the Australian Open.
If the main rankings are currently working against him though, Nadal can take comfort in the fact that for the next eight months, he barely has any points to defend in order to maintain his current ranking points total, which means that while all other players have to improve on last year’s tournament performances in order to improve their ranking, Nadal will see his ranking improve with each and every game he wins.
Of course, for great champions, it’s winning trophies that is the ultimate mark of success. On that front, Nadal is now only two grand slam titles away from becoming the second most successful player in the Open era, and as long as he enjoys better luck with injuries over the next few years, there’s likely to be enough opportunities for Nadal to close in on Federer’s record haul of 17.
History was made at roland Garros, and on the form shown throughout his comeback from injury, Nadal in the mood to make plenty more marks on the tennis history books.
It caps a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, and for his rivals, achieving a grand slam title has just become a lot more difficult again.