Rafael Nadal: The king is back!

Published: April 5, 2013

This may sound mythical and the story of fairy tales, but nothing is more inspirational, than to see such a miracle happen in real life. PHOTO: AFP

June 28, 2012, proved to be the most significant date in the life of Lukas Rosol. He not only beat Nadal in Wimbeldon but rather pulled off the biggest upset in sport, for the last decade.

Nadal’s mind blowing accomplishments on Clay sometimes take the spotlight off what he has achieved on other surfaces. Six finals at Wimbeldon, two final appearances each in Australian Open and US Open respectively take some doing.

Thus, Rosol not only beat a great player that day, he actually beat a legend.

Nadal did not play another competitive match again for seven months. His long standing battle against his very own troublesome knees finally took its toll.

It’s not the amount of success that defines a champion, rather the reaction to adversity that differentiates the very good from the great. Nothing can be worse in an athlete’s life than not being able to compete. Nadal stared this very demon in the eye. Only God knows how he must have felt getting up every morning knowing that he won’t be able to do what he had trained his mind, body and soul to do for the last 20 years – the ability to compete.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

This may sound mythical and the story of fairy tales, but nothing is more inspirational than to see such a miracle happen in real life.

Nadal’s comeback story is nothing short of a miracle.

When he pulled out of the US Open in August critics raised their voices. His absence from the World Series Finals in London raised more questions. Then came the Australian Open in January, but Nadal was nowhere to be seen. Even the most ardent of fans feared the worst. He is not coming back they said. He won’t be the same player they said.

Thankfully Nadal was not listening. In February, Nadal took his first tentative steps, back in action. A doubles match victory was encouraging, but the world waited cautiously. Then came the loss at the hands of little known Horacio Zeballos at the Chile Open final.

Nadal’s movement on the court was just not the same.

The forehand lacked penetration, backhand was littered with errors and serve was far too easy to read. However Nadal was gracious in defeat, and never stopped believing.

Wins at the Brazil Open raised hopes. We saw shades of Nadal’s brilliance when he demolished fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer to win the Mexican Open. However even a casual observer could tell, Nadal was not at his best. The most optimistic of pundits did not rate him as a favourite at Indian Wells, not even close. However his recent performances at that event brought the rest of the field back to earth.

Victories against his long-time rival Federer brought back old memories.

He was at his most brilliant squash buckling best in the final to defeat the hard hitting Del Potro to win his 23rd Masters 1000 event; a feat unmatched in the history of tennis.

As the European Clay Court season approaches, there is only one news in tennis circles these days; the king is back, and beware he is on Clay.


Dr Ali Osama Malik

The writer graduated from Aga Khan University, where he was the captain of the University Tennis team for the year 2010.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Chakde

    I think Nadal is highly overrated. Being out of the tennis scene for almost 8 months means he is not the king (never was). An important factor in being a great athlete is to have consistency. Nadal is inconsistent and that alone proves that he is a mediocre player at best. Winning 7 French Opens does not mean he great on all surfaces. Recommend

  • Yasser

    Great article gave me goosebumps. :)Recommend

  • Karen

    WOW! Somebody needs to check Rafa’s stats out again. Your idea of mediocre is HILARIOUS!!!Recommend

  • Mohsin

    Nadal would go down in the books as one of the greatest to have graced the courts. Had he been in any other era, he wouldve reined supreme. Unfortunately for him he would always be remembered as second best of his day due to the player extraordinaire’, Roger Federer.

    And chakde please. ganday mazak na kia karo, Immi bhai key ilawa dunya mein aur bhi khiladi hainRecommend


    great article DR. Malik,

    I think Nadal it”s just that, THE KING , having 7 French Opens does make you the KING, I gess Federer is not the greatest of all times, 7 Wimbledons….. C’mon….both of this men in their differents way of play are the most excited people so far in the game of Tennis.
    Long live to the KING .Recommend

  • Alien

    You fool…do u have any idea about tennis at all….Nadal has won 11 grandslams, out of which 7 in clay, he also reached 5 other finals in other surfaces, he is not a clay courter, he has beaten Federer in Grass and Djoker in Hard courts, its no mean acheivements!!!! Moreover he has won 6 Masters series in Hard courts….Recommend

  • Fred

    Indian wells was his 22nd Master 1000 victory, not 23rd! Great article, thoughRecommend

  • elaine

    Rafael Nadal is the best – an amazing player on court and an amazing person off court. He is our hero and inspiration in life. We wish to see Rafa on court for many more years. The energy and charisma he brings to the court is something that tennis will never see again for a long time.

    Great article. Can’t wait to see the King of Clay in action again. Thanks.Recommend

  • hetty

    i’m trying hard to understand your statement about rafa’s inconsistency.Now we all know that if rafa is fit and healthy he’s one of the best if not the best on tour.Yes he may have issues with his knees but that doesn’t equate to inconsistency.His form has always stayed the same if not better over the years so please don’t say he’s inconsistent.Unfortunately his body doesn’t allow him to do what he’ll want to do always so give him a break.And yea,he’s one of the BEST athletes to have ever played the game. Recommend

  • Non

    A loser comment by some idiot who has no clue about tennis world. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray are the best tennis players the world has seen after a very long time. Nadal among them achieved one of the greatest achievements. Lets see who can break 7 grandslams record on clay in the near future. He is undoubtedly the best clay couter of all time. No body is even close to him. Not even Bjorn Borg. Tennis is physically and mentally very exhausting sports today. Inspite of all that Nadal and Djokovic seem to have unlimited stamina. When Ndala won his first grand slam Federer was at his peak. Still Federer could never beat Nadal on clay (most times he lost in straight sets without a tiebreaker).
    Nadal has many more years to match or surpass all the records. But the level of tennis is so high today that any record broken by him will be a record for a really long time.
    RAFA the real king.Recommend

  • hilarious

    @Karen: I this that guy doesn’t know anything about Tennis Recommend

  • http://n/a Sandy Aptecker

    Rafa Nadal is not only extraordinary, he is the most exciting player to have ever graced a tennis court. Roger Federer is boring compared to Rafa Nadal. Rafa is thrilling, chilling, breathtaking in talent and looks. I could watch him all day and night for weeks on end. He easily beats Roger whenever they play and if Roger still wants to play, I bet he never wins another game against Rafa. I hope Roger retires soon before he embarrasses himself and all his fans. Sandy A.Recommend

  • ash

    rafa more than achievement is a good sportsman…I have never seen him rave about himself unnecesarily, rather he is always very humble and modest in all his victories and achievements, which is a sign of extraordinary quality.Recommend

  • Rohit

    what do you mean hes a mediocre player..the dude has a career grandslam and 7 FO’s..and he’s got a positive H2H against Nole and Murray..and he owns Fed..and he’s won 7 of the last 8 FOs..thats not consistency..Recommend

  • puput

    Nadal is definitely the king of clay.
    Winning 7 RG,,it does means , he is arguably a legend.
    Nobodys perfect even Nadal,,But he won each aussi open & us under the age of 25.

    What iam sayang is ,,he is not great at all surfaces ,,but he can manage to win it.

    That is the spirit of the Champion..

    My advise to you Chakde ,analize first before making some comments.Recommend

  • Chakde

    Wow, so many Nadal lovers out there!Recommend

  • Fernando

    You would describe reaching 5 Wimbledon finals and winning 2, reaching 2 US Open finals and winning 1, reaching 2 Australian Open finals and winning 1 (11 GS in total), apart from the 7 French Open titles, totaling 53 titles (many of those in hard court, not just clay – including a record 22 masters titles, again, not all in clay) and a gold medal at age 26 inconsistent? I think you stand alone in your definition of inconsistency.Recommend

  • RealityCheck

    How many titles you have WON? Do you have any idea about what tennis means? if you are in your sleep time to wake up….Recommend

  • chuckster56

    I disagree with everyonre sitting there saying nadla isnt the great and he is second best sorry but him and fed are arguabl;yRecommend

  • Natchalai

    What amazes me (not in a good way) more than @Chakde’s ignorance is that there’re people who agreed with that comment.

    Great article, Dr. Malik. Thank you.Recommend

  • Pradeep

    @Chakde: If winning 7 FO doesnt make him a great player. can you explain what it takes to be a great player. also, there are two literally two surfaces on the circuit (clay and hard, grass is a stopover only during Wimbledon) and if he mastered one of out of two like no other, played spectacularly on the other surfaces (reaching 5 wimbledon finals and winning two, winning australian and US), why cant he be called a great. Its easy just argue randomly with out any rationale behind it. Also, to your point of consistency, didnt he win more % of matches than anyone who has played tennis. Do you want him to play tennis even if he is injured? Give credit where it is due!Recommend

  • Zohaib

    An inspiring article.

    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts – Winston ChurchillRecommend

  • Altaf

    Excellent article Dr. Malik….thanks. After reading some of the anti Nadal comments here though, it seems the following two criteria are missing in their analysis as well as the analysis of most of the western media: Level playing field & Head to head record.

    Level Playing Field: imagine if you will there were 6 clay court Master 1000 events and only 3 hard court events. You can for sure bet that all the Federer fans would dismiss Nadal’s advantage of record 22 Master 1000 titles to Fed’s 21 titles since there would be twice as many clay courts than hard courts. But the fact is the opposite: there are 6 hard court Master 1000 events and 3 clay court events. Since hard court is Federer prefereed court, why does he NOT have twice as many Master 1000 titles when compared to Nadal ? The answer of course is because Federer is NOT the greatest of all time. Now lets take this thinking to Grand Slams. There are three times more grand slams on Fed’s preferred courts of grass and hard court. Historically, players good in hard court are also good in grass but not good in clay and vice versa. Imagine if we have level playing field for grand slams: two grass and two clay Grand Slams. You would see Fed with around 16 Grand Slams and Nadal with around 16 Grand Slams also. The deciding factors are Nadal’s head-to-head domination over Federer and Nadal’s mastery on the Master 1000 tournaments with a record 22 titles even though only 33% of these events are on Nadal’s preferred surface of clay !

    Head to head record: Fed fans often claim that head-to-head record is NOT important. But this can’t be true — specially when the head-to-head record involves almost 30 matches, including 10 Grand Slams and numerous Master 1000 events. Unlike team sports, tennis is a one-on-one game. So if you are suppose to be the “Greatest of All Time” then you need win around 50% of your matches against your greatest rival — you need to win when it matters most. To date, Nadal has won 66% of his matches against Federer. Furthermore, he has won 80% of his matches against Federer during the all important grand slam events — it includes winning 100% of the matches on the grand slam hard court. Isn’t hard court suppose to be Federer’s preferred court ? So why was the “Greatest Player of All Time” NOT able to beat Nadal during the 2009 Australian Open even though Fed had one extra day’s rest and Nadal having just completed a semi final on a record 5 hour match against Verdasco ? Going into that 2009 GS, Federer was heavily favored to win the match against Nadal — but it wasn’t to be because it was against the true Greatest Player of All Time :-) Finally, the 2008 Wimbledon Grass Court Grand Slam is considered by most to be the Great Tennis Match Ever — and who won this greatest tennis match ever ? Of course, none other than the Greatest Tennis Player Ever — Rafa Nadal !! :-)Recommend

  • johnny

    wow, you must have forgotten to breathe this [email protected]: Recommend

  • Chakde

    Ok everyone who is trying to stand up for their favourite athlete here, I have a question for them: What are his statistics for the past 9 months? The answer to that should make you all think.

    Ali my friend, the article structure is good but sorry, the content is not accurate.Recommend

  • Adil Sheikh

    A true sports icon,not only for coming back and winning Indian Wells but along with that giving his supporters the much needed zeal to keep tabs and hope as the tennis year gets busy-the latter being the more significant feat. His return is only good for the sport and tennis viewership.His record and pedigree leave no doubt that he belongs to an exclusive club of world beaters.No point in bringing Federer into it, he has already shared his welcoming sentiments.Recommend

  • Bilal Bin Parvez

    LOL I read that mediocre comment and laughed my pants off! Chakde doesn’t even know nothing about tennis. I know that you’re some fedtard who thinks that there isn’t no other player other than him. Even though I respect Roger but his fanboys are idiots. They think that Roger is the greatest player of all time when everything is taken into consideration to put up a name about who’s the GREATEST! To me yes Roger is the greatest because he’s won more Grand Slams than Rafa Nadal but Rafael has the potential to be the greatest and when he overtakes Roger in the GS count, and there won’t be any doubt about who’ll be the greatest because Rafa has a winning record against 90% of the players including the likes of Roger, Nole and Andy Murray. I’m a huge Rafael Nadal fan and he’s my inspiration but I’ve never been an arrogant fan who says that he’s the greatest and all, and I’m a huge Tennis fan in general so I enjoy watching players competing against each other at the highest level. Roger’s game is the most beautiful and elegant game, I’ve ever seen, Rafa’s game is the most bravest as if he’s not playing he’s at WAR, his never to give up attitude is brilliant and he’s the most intelligent player I’ve ever seen. Novak is like a spider, so flexible that he can reach anywhere he wants, his shot making is like rockets being fired at something and Andy Murray’s counter punching style is amazing as well. This is the best era in Tennis enjoy it while it lasts. We won’t see players like them in the future. Though I feel like Baby Fed that is Grigor Dimitrov has the potential to win a lot of Grand Slams and Bernard Tomic can be a great player as well. Peace out.Recommend

  • Zohaib

    @ Chakde.

    Son. You are missing the point of the whole article.

    It’s quite clear you are not a Nadal fan. But that shouldn’t matter.
    You have simply missed the point!Recommend

  • Ali Osama

    Thank you so much everyone for your appreciation and comments. Fred, Indian Wells was indeed Nadal’s 22nd ATP 1000 title. I apologize for my mistake. Lets hope he wins many more.

    It seems like, Federer vs Nadal is a very hot topic. I am currently working on an article comparing these two great champions. Hope everyone will enjoy that article too.

    Best WishesRecommend

  • Francine

    @chakde you mean two months right? Recommend

  • Manuel Gonzales

    I believe Federer is the greatest all all time.. but if he is the greatest of all time and the last time he has defeated Nadal in a Grand Slam was Wimbledon, I believe 07 then what does that make Nadal? the Greatest of the greatest of all time? Something to think aboutgRecommend

  • Cliff

    @Chakde: nadals stats the past 9 months. Played 21 won 20 and lost 1 (best winning percentage) won 3 titles and is in the final tonight to win a 4th. You’re right…it did make me think…he’s awesome!!!!!Recommend

  • Kashuf

    The king is back. Oh yes. Recommend