A year ago, the world had written him off completely from the sport. Prognosticators spoke about how difficult it would be for him to make a comeback; let alone be successful at it. He was the past – in spite of all that he had achieved – and the future, according to most experts, definitely didn’t include him.
Months later as he made yet another comeback, the world including all the so-called experts and prognosticators had no choice but to stand up and take notice of him as he went on to script one of the strongest rejoinders that the sport had ever seen.
If 2012 was a blip in Rafael Nadal’s tennis graph, then 2013 has been the year of his resurrection. When he made the start to the 2013 season after a couple of false starts, it seemed questionable as to whether he would be able to regain – and attain – all that he had lost towards the latter part of the season. And even though he ended up on the winning in the initial few tournaments at the beginning of the year, scepticism abounded about him being able to sustain the run till the French Open. An all-important event that took on far greater significance this time, on account of the Spaniard bidding to be the first male tennis player in the history of the event to win it eight times.
That Nadal failed to defend his win at the Monte Carlo Masters, falling in straight sets to the world no. 1 Djokovic didn’t really help matters, especially since Monte Carlo was out-and-out Nadal’s roosting ground. The Serb seemed to be in command but by the time Barcelona, Madrid and Rome had been done and dusted; there wasn’t any other name that deserved to win at Roland Garros and Rafael Nadal proved it consummately in the end. Perhaps it’s then only right that the Spaniard’s triumphs at Toronto (Rogers’ Cup) and Cincinnati (Western and Southern Financial Cup) have highlighted him as the favourite to win the US Open.
Unbeatable doesn’t even begin to cover Rafa’s manner of game-making in the entirety of the American hard court season this year. The confidence that has shone through with each scintillating shot that he has managed to send over the net is a testament to how successful Rafa’s comeback has been. And, as inconceivable as it would have been to consider that Nadal would be involved in a neck-to-neck battle with Novak Djokovic after being out of action for almost a year; his inspiring statistics for this year make him a worthy enough to try and reclaim that crown from the Serbian.
The prognosticators’ view too has invariably changed as Rafa marches on with his inspired juggernaut. With just two matches left to determine the winner at Flushing Meadows, these very naysayers of the past have started to speak about why and how Nadal is the sole favourite to bring home his second US Open title and his 13th major overall.
While it still remains to be seen as to who will emerge as the winner, there’s no denying that Rafa Nadal’s victory at Flushing Meadows would bring to prominence quite a surprising, and coincidental, facet between him and Roger Federer. Federer’s last win at the US Open – in 2008 – saw him win his 13th major – a feat that will undoubtedly put him and his nemesis on even closer terms, in spite of all the hue and cry surrounding the abrupt truncating of Federer’s run at the US Open in the pre-quarter-finals at the hands of Tommy Robredo.
Federer’s win over Andy Murray in the 2008 US Open final was his attempt at re-conquering his superiority that his Spanish rival had wrested from him. The victory also put Federer one close to Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors’ – something that he surpassed with aplomb, the very next year. Rafa’s circumstance, poised at the potentiality of winning his 13th major, then doesn’t see a repetition of Federer’s situation, but is one that is of equal monumentality in spite of the differences and distinguishing.