Analysis: Rafael Nadal has surely disappointed in 2018 despite clay season brilliance
With Rafael Nadal’s season now over, Michael Graham analyses whether he shone for long enough to be deemed bright enough.
For a period in 2018, Rafael Nadal looked absolutely unbeatable.
He was taking all of the accolades, setting new records, and just about every opponent unfortunate to run into him spoke of how it was practically impossible to get the best of him.
That period in 2018 was clay court season, and it’s nothing new.
Sadly, the Spaniard’s season has not been a good one, and there is little point trying to get away from that.
Yes, his win-percentage was impressive, as his own people like to remind us, but in terms of overall contribution against expectation levels, surely Nadal has only disappointed?
And you are allowed to say that, you know. Sometimes, when you cover tennis, the game’s royalty feels very protected.
As Nadal hobbled away from his ankle surgery on crutches this week after pulling out of the ATP Finals, there was a feeling of familiarity.
In 2018, Nadal competed in just nine events. Nine.
Of those nine, five were on clay, one was Wimbledon, three were hard court. Of the three hard court events in which he competed, he retired injured in two – both Grand Slams.
His supporters will point out that he won over half (five) of the tournaments he started this season and finished it as world number two, which would surely make it a fine season?
There is that argument, but personally I’ve felt very disappointed by Nadal this year.
It felt like this was meant to be his year to truly shine and dominate. Roger Federer appears, more so that ever, to be winding down now and more selective than ever about his schedule, and Novak Djokovic struggled massively for half the year.
However, he withdrew or retired from more tournaments (11) than he actually played in.
You can point to injuries, and he has struggled with knee and abdominal problems, although others could also point out that he was somehow absolutely fine through his favoured clay court season.
None of this is a criticism of Nadal. When he’s played, he has been brilliant and it is only right that he manages his schedule at this stage of his career.
All I’m saying it that for the most part, he has certainly underwhelmed.
Hopefully, it is not a sign of things to come. Nadal played 18 tournaments in 2017, and the reason for his surgery has been given as future fitness concerns by his surgeon.
“It was about 35 minutes on the right ankle,” Dr. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro told Spanish radio.
“He had a small piece impede the joint. We decided to solve this problem now so we can start next season in the best conditions.
“You have to understand the amount of matches he plays each year – he has chronic injuries.”
If you look back at Nadal’s career in recent years, he has almost eased himself into a pattern of having a heavy year playing 70+ matches and then having more of a maintenance year with 50 or so.
This year has followed that pattern again, so even if he has disappointed in 2018, there is every reason to expect a strong resurgence in 2019.
More from Tennis365:
Exclusive – Former British No 1 insists Novak Djokovic deserves more respect
Novak Djokovic deserves equal billing alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Wimbledon ranking points decision sparking angry reaction from players
The decision from the ATP and WTA…
Carlos Alcaraz ‘a different person’ as he prepares for second French Open
Carlos Alcaraz heads into the French Open…
Cameron Norrie wins Lyon Open for fourth career title
Cameron Norrie claims his fourth career title in Lyon.
Novak Djokovic ready to be tested in French Open defence after ‘very tough’ draw
The Serbian could face Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev if he wants to win the title
Iga Swiatek relaxed as she returns to happy hunting ground
Iga Swiatek says she is prepared for the day her winning streak is broken.
Wimbledon doubles down on Russian ban despite stripping of ranking points
Wimbledon organisers said they ‘made the only viable decision’.
Peng Shuai latest: IOC says she is ‘looking forward to visiting Europe’
Peng’s safety and freedom has been a concern since she appeared to allege in a social media post that she had been sexually assaulted.
Novak Djokovic and Emma Raducanu facing huge rankings drop after Wimbledon decision
Djokovic is almost certain to lose his No.1 ranking.
Comment – Why the removal Wimbledon’s ranking points could backfire on the ATP and WTA
Wimbledon has been stripped of its ATP ranking points following the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players.