Rafa's grit

Rafa's grit

Rafael Nadal enters every Grand Slam tournament with the eagerness of an explorer who is in pursuit of a new path, a new land, a new peak.

Often, that journey forces him to dig deep and find reserves of resolve no one else on this planet seems to possess. Entering this year’s US Open, Nadal’s collection of 12 Grand Slam singles titles stood as a glowing testimony to his never-say-die attitude. Typically, when the Spaniard notched his 13th victory in a Slam final on Monday night in New York, it was the spirit that came shining through much more than his efficient and ruthless play from the baseline. Novak Djokovic, a man not short on determination himself, was relegated to the second spot as Nadal clawed his way out of tight spots before rebuffing the Serbian’s challenge in four sets. 

For a man who thrives on challenges, Nadal has received more than his share from life so far. A knee injury that kept him away from tennis for close to seven months has been the biggest the 27-year-old has faced till now, threatening to derail his career completely. Returning to the courts early this season, he slowly rebuilt his game back before scripting a spectacular success story at the French Open. Even so, there were doubts over his presence on the hard-court season after an early Wimbledon exit but the feisty left-hander blew those away with a performance that can only be described as awesome. After the US Open, his record on hard courts this season reads 22-0 and despite the ATP computer listing him as No 2, there is no doubt as to who the hottest player in the world is at the moment.

Nadal’s comeback has coincided with the dramatic slide of another great champion. Roger Federer, who set the pace in men’s tennis for the better part of the last decade, is in the autumn of his career and a record he so stylishly built is in danger of being trampled upon by the rampaging Spaniard. Nadal needs just four more Grand Slam singles titles to equal the Swiss master’s record of 17. Significantly, Nadal holds a winning record against two of his main rivals -- 22-15 against Djokovic and 13-5 against Briton Andy Murray -- and if he remains fit, the Spanish ace could well scale a new peak in the men’s game.

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