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Injury Setback: Is Rafael Nadal’s Time at the Top Over?

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Acapulco Open due to an injury setback. This is becoming a foregone conclusion with the Spaniard either withdrawing or retiring from six straight tournaments. Nadal’s time at the top of the tennis tree could now be over after this latest setback.

Injury setbacks

The 31-year-old withdrew from tournaments in Basel, Paris and London last year, signifying that the time off for Christmas was much needed. However, a recurring thigh injury has reemerged this year as well. The Spaniard withdrew from Brisbane, before managing to make the quarter-final of the Australian Open where he retired in the fifth set against Marin Cilic.
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Following his retirement, it would have been reasonable to take time off. Therefore it was unexpected when he entered the Acapulco Open in Mexico. It was another surprising setback as he withdrew hours before his first-round match against Felicano Lopez.

Rafael Nadal is now likely to miss both 1000 Masters events in Miami and Indian Wells to prepare for the Clay court season. However, will that be enough for him to return back to full fitness?

Surprise defeats

To be at the top of the game you have to minimise your chances of a shock defeat. Despite winning six titles last season, it was losses to the likes of Dominic Thiem that showed he is on his way down.

A quarter-final defeat to Milos Raonic in January at Brisbane demonstrated the hard-hitters now have a chance to beat the Spaniard. This was followed by narrowly losing out in the Australian Open final to Roger Federer. Yet, this time last year in Acapulco, Nadal managed to lose to world #40 Sam Querrey. This result showed again that the big servers are a threat to the 16-time Grand Slam champion.
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Another two defeats to Roger Federer gave a real insight that the tide was swinging in favour of the Swiss as to who was the best in the world. At the Rome Masters, it was the turn of youngster Dominic Thiem in straight sets. A defeat that would never be expected from the worlds best player.

Wimbledon is the yearly setback for Rafael Nadal, having failed to get past the fourth round since 2012. It was no different last year as Giles Muller was the man to knock him out in an intense five-set match.

In Montreal and Cincinnati, Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrios upset the Spaniard and setback his progress of proving he is still at his best.

Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam results are slacking

The Rafael Nadal era could be over and his grand slam performances show that. He won Roland Garros and the US Open last year, however, they are his first grand slam victories since 2014.

Several setbacks from injury have troubled Nadal enough to not feature at two grand slams and retire from another two since 2014. In 2015, the 75-time title winner exited the Australian and French Open at the quarter-final stage. He even failed to get that far at the other two grand slams.
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2016 was even worse for Nadal. A five set first-round defeat to Fernando Verdasco set the tone for the year. A wrist injury only allowed him to reach the third round as he withdrew from his favourite tournament. Wimbledon came too soon, as his injury was too much to feature. At the US Open, it seemed like he had returned his best, as he entered the fourth round having not lost a set. However, unknown Frenchman Lucas Pouille made his name defeating Nadal in five sets and giving the 31-year-old a further setback.

It is time Rafael Nadal took a note out of Federer’s book. Time off is better in the long run. His injuries need time to heal or surgery is warranted. Retiring or withdrawing from events simply adds another setback to his long list. Whether the left-handed 2008 Olympic champion can return to his best I doubt. But I still expect him to challenge for a couple of slams in the years to come.

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