Well in case you missed it…Rafa completed his historic La Decima at Roland Garros yesterday! Not only has he now won ten French Open titles (three more than any other man has ever won at any single Grand Slam event), but he remains perfect in final matches on the Parisian red clay! The superlatives have been pouring in, and rightly so! The king of clay lives on! Nadal will rest and regroup over the next few days before heading to London for a grass warmup event at Queen’s Club where he will prepare for Wimbledon which begins in about three weeks. Rafa enjoys playing on grass. But recently, the favor has not been so generously returned. Nadal’s last four campaigns at SW19 have ended in early defeats to journeymen. And he has not won the trophy since 2010. Although Roger Federer skipped Paris to prepare for Wimbledon, and although Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could find their grass games in time to make deep tournament runs, the greatest threat posed to Nadal in London will not be any of these primary rivals but rather the finicky relationship between the grass and his own knees.
The number one issue for Rafa at Wimbledon at this stage of his career is whether or not he can remain pain free in his knees well enough to find his own game and play with the confidence that his body will not let him down. Nadal has endured various upper and lower body injuries over the years, but if he were to admit to having an Achilles Heal, I’m guessing he would point to his knees. He’s not suffered torn ACLs or the like, but tendinitis is no small thing. Grass brings new challenges to all players having just left the red clay. One is particular is that the balls tend to skid (bounce lower). This forces the players to stay lower in their movement and plants. This may not sound like much, but over the course of an entire match…played at an elite level…this can and does work the knees like no other surface. This is the reality of Rafa at Wimbledon. His strokes, stamina and spirit are wondrous at the moment! Will his knees hold up for him on the grass for the next few weeks? We shall see!