Rafael Nadal’s quest for the calendar slam ended in disappointment as the Spaniard was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon with an abdominal tear. He was sensational at the All-England club to back up his efforts at the Australian Open and the French Open. Nadal displayed his greatness and resilience once again on Centre Court in the quarter-finals to overcome his American opponent in a five-set thriller.
It appeared as though the Spaniard was going to suffer a rare defeat, but played through the pain barrier to win the last two sets, including the final set in a brilliant tie-breaker. Nadal has been absent from the court since but will return for the US Open, where he is backed in the US Open tennis odds at +500 to win the tournament. However, the presence of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, and even Nick Kyrgios will present a huge challenge for Nadal as he looks to regain his form. It will be interesting to see how his injury will affect his play at Flushing Meadows, and whether he can remain healthy for the duration of the competition.
Nadal has missed the last two US Opens due to injury and will have to reacquaint himself with the surface at Flushing Meadows. Although hard courts are usually the same, the pace of the US Open courts usually provides a unique challenge for all players on the ATP Tour. On Nadal’s last outing at the US Open in 2019, he defeated Medvedev in the final in a result not too dissimilar from his triumph in the Australian Open in 2022. The contest went all the way to five sets, and Nadal had to use all of his experience and nous to conquer the Russian. However, he has improved significantly since and after being suspended from Wimbledon, Medvedev will be fresh and determined to defend his title won in 2021.
Another concern for Nadal will be his record against Djokovic on hard courts. The Serb has won their last nine meetings on the surface, boasting a 20-7 record overall with Nadal’s last win coming in his victory in the final of the 2013 US Open. It will be an encouraging sign for Nadal’s form and fitness that he could face Djokovic at Flushing Meadows, but the 35-year-old has been bested by his great rival on hard courts for a long period of time. He will need to raise the standard of his game if they do face off in the latter stages of the competition.
Reaching the last four and potentially the final will be a challenge considering his lack of time on the court and his injury. Although Nadal has remained a potent force on the tour, there is no disguising the fact that he has to dig deep to overcome his opponents of late. It took everything he had to defeat Medvedev in the final of the Australian Open, displaying the resilience of a champion. Then again in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon to overcome Fritz, so much so that he aggravated his abdominal muscles to achieve the feat. Nadal has always been a player that has relied on his physical attributes, but given his age, those powers are starting to wane and it could be his downfall at Flushing Meadows.