By: Associate Editor Alec Dent
Picture Credit: Google Images
Rafael Nadal’s tennis woes continued this week. The Spaniard has been struggling with his form as of late, with 2014 marking the first year since 2004 Nadal has gone slamless. More importantly, in 2014 he became mortal on clay. He routinely lost to inferior players (multiple times to Fabio Fognini), and for the first time in 11 years failed to win one of the three Masters 1000 tournaments during the European clay court swing. He was also handed his second loss at the French Open, falling to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. And now, Nadal has lost on clay two weeks in a row to players who ought to be well below his skill level in minor 250 level tournaments. Last week it was in the semifinals against Dominic Thiem, who went on to take home the Buenos Aires title. This week it was to Pablo Cuevas in the semifinals of the Rio Open. Thiem is a rising star on the ATP circuit, so Nadal’s loss to him, while unexpected, is almost excusable. But Cuevas is an aging journeyman ranked in the 40’s. That loss speaks volumes about where Nadal’s level of play is currently.
With his brutal style of tennis finally catching up to his body, Nadal looks again to be a non-factor at the French Open, the grand slam he once ruled. And with Roger Federer returning from a knee injury, once again we are approaching the French Open with Djokovic as the heavy favorite. This could be the year Djokovic completes his grand slam collection.