Why This Is Nadal’s Best Chance To Win The US Open
There is always a certain amount of hype over Rafael Nadal come this time in the tennis season. Post grass and clay Nadal is usually playing somewhere near his peak and has struck fear into the ATP, (whether they admit it or not). Then things come to a bit of a standstill as Nadal’s prowess on clay and grass doesn’t translate to the slick hard-courts of America. He is yet to reach a US Open final and often finds injuries a problem nearing the end of the year.
On first glance it would appear this year is no different. Nadal is once again number one based on results found on clay and grass, his aura of invincibility is back, and there is perhaps more hype than necessary considering his hard-court form pre-clay. However, this year is Nadal’s best chance at the US Open. Here’s why.
His main rivals are struggling
I’m not one to jump on the Federer-will-never-win-another-slam/tournament/match/set bandwagon but it would be delusional to think that two quarter finals appearances for him in Slams this year is a decent result. His game is well-suited to the New York hard-courts and he can never be counted out, but his game is also suited to grass and he struggled at Wimbledon. If Nadal and Federer meet, Nadal can be assured he will have a mental advantage and would stand a good chance over his rival.
Having said all that, Federer and Nadal have never met at the US Open. It’s always been someone else that has stopped Nadal in his tracks. Last year it came at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro who dealt with Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2 and went on to win the title. With his flat ground strokes and huge reach del Potro is the perfect player to take out Nadal but his presence this year is unlikely. His wrist injury will likely keep him out of competition until at least September. Even if he does play he’ll hardly be match-fit.
Federer and del Potro are the big names Nadal wouldn’t like to come up against but there are others that seem to be having a hard time finding their game in 2010 that would otherwise prove a challenge. Marin Cilic is one who started the year promisingly and took out Andy Murray at last year’s US Open but has been struggling since. Murray too has been struggling and Nadal would have a mental edge if he were to face the Scot. Andy Roddick hasn’t been the same since chosing not to play the majority of the clay season and Robin Soderling now seems to have a mental-block against Nadal. All this considered, you have to fancy Nadal’s chances to take the title this year before his main rivals rediscover their game.
He’s been preparing for it
Nadal seems to sense his chances are good to take the one Slam missing from his resume this year. So good that he’s pulled out of Davis Cup in an attempt to minimise any impact on his knees. Instead of inflicting more damage he opted to undergo therapy to recover his knees from any damage sustained during his Wimbledon win. He’s playing only two tournaments before the US Open in Toronto and Cincinnati, both of which are Masters Series. His slimmed down schedule points towards Nadal making a serious push at the US Open.
He’s at his peak
Most tennis players peak at around age 24. Nadal is that age at the moment and seems to be at the peak of his career. Whilst he won his first Slam early and has always been considered incredibly successful especially for his age, Nadal has often struggled with injury problems and made no secret that he doesn’t intend to play into his thirties. Nadal is in formidable form at the moment but it’s hard to see him developing his game too much further from here. At his peak Nadal certainly has the game to win on his least-favourite surface, and his best is what it will require to take the title in New York.
It’s going to be hard to tell whether Nadal will be the favourite to take the title until the US Open is actually underway. Both Masters series that lead into the Slam differ vastly in their surfaces. What we do know is that this is Nadal’s best shot so far and you can always guarantee that Nadal will do what he does best. Take his chances.