ATP

Rafael Nadal needs more of the same after best form in a decade

Rafael Nadal is on top of the world going into 2020 and we review his prospects for further success ahead of the new ATP Tour season.

When Rafael Nadal went three years without a Grand Slam success between his 2014 and 2017 wins at Roland Garros, few would have believed his best days were ahead of him.

When Nadal won only one of the majors not played in Paris over a six-year period between 2011 and 2016, it looked like he would never again be able to consistently challenge his great rivals outside of clay courts.

But when he looks back on this year, Nadal, at the age of 33, will reflect on his best season in almost a decade on the ATP Tour, having finished as year-end number one for the fifth time of his magnificent tennis career.

Rating his year on Grand Slam performances, it is the second best of the Spaniard’s time on the circuit, with only 2010, when he won three of the four majors, coming in ahead.

Throw in the fact he inspired Spain to a brilliant Davis Cup Finals success on home soil and this year may even rival that one.

He won all eight of his rubbers across singles and doubles at the tournament in Madrid as Spain came out on top for the first time since 2011, an achievement which ended his gruelling year in stunning style.

After overcoming battles with injuries and form, the big results keep coming and even Nadal remarked on his surprise at finishing as year-end number one 11 years after he first achieved the feat in 2008.

“I am super happy,” he said. “Honestly, after all the things that I went through in my career, in terms of injury, I never thought that at the age of 33 and a half, I would have this trophy in my hands again.

“So it’s something really, really emotional for me. A lot of work goes on in the shadows to be where we are today.”

This year, a record 12th French Open triumph was followed up with his second win in the past three years at the US Open, a memorable victory in the final over Daniil Medvedev giving him four Flushing Meadows titles overall.

He was runner-up at the Australian Open and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2019, competitive on every occasion.

Rafael Nadal also added two Masters 1000 titles to his list of accolades, though a first ATP Finals success still eluded him despite overcoming a fitness scare to play in the London tournament.

Five Grand Slams in the last three years mean Nadal sits on 19 major titles, just one behind Roger Federer and right in the mix, along with Novak Djokovic, to win the race between the illustrious trio to finish their careers at the top of that list.

The success over recent seasons is a testament not only to Nadal’s talent, but also his persistence and staying power, for which he is reaping the rewards in what are likely his final years on Tour.

In a run stretching back to 2018, he has won nine of his last 10 appearances in finals over the last two years and remains a man for the big occasion who few would opt to bet against.

Federer’s play is starting to suggest he is nearing the end and Djokovic finally showed signs of vulnerability when injury stuck at the US Open and he, like Nadal, could not reach the last four at the ATP Finals.

Therefore, Nadal will like his chances of adding to his major total in 2020 and carries significant momentum into the Australian Open next month. If his fitness can hold up across the year, he looks like the man to beat.

Next: One more Slam would change everything for Federer

When Rafael Nadal does call it a day, he will look back at 2019 fondly. The evidence, though, suggests he is far from done yet.