As a Nadal fan, we all wanted a splendid start to his season. So, living up to his fan’s expectations he started his 2014 tennis season with a December’13 ATP World tour win.
But 2014 has been quite a rocky year for the Spaniard and he has been pulling out of a lot of major tournaments and slams, including the final leg of the year, due to severe injuries.
To recap 2014 for Rafa, he won the Qatar open on January 4th after defeating Gael Monfils. During the Australian open, Nadal reached his third final Down Under by dispatching his old rival Roger Federer in the semi-finals with a straight set victory. He dropped only one set on the way, against Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. Being victorious in the final would have seen Nadal equal Big Pete’s total of 14 major titles and also become only the third man to win all four grand slams at least twice, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver being the other two. In the final, though, he was unexpectedly beaten by Stanislas Wawrinka, who had previously never beaten Nadal or even won a set against him in 12 meetings. At a set and a break down, Nadal sustained a back injury that saw him swiftly lose the second set. He recovered enough to win the third and fought hard before Wawrinka prevailed in four sets.
Nadal returned to play the innaugral Rio Open where he triumphed over Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final on February 23. A day earlier in the semis , he saved two match points in the 3rd set tie breaker to beat Pablo Andujar.
For the Miami masters, Nadal returned to Key Biscayne for his first shot at the title, as he was unable to compete in tournament in 2013. He dominated his first three opponents, losing a total of nine games combined. He then fought back from a set down to overcome Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals. In an unprecedented event both Novak Djokovic and he received walkovers from their semi-final opponents to set up their 40th clash. It was Nadal’s fourth Miami final, following runner-up finishes in 2005, 2008, and 2011. Despite giving his best in this one, he was unable to lift the trophy though, as Djokovic displayed near perfect form and eased his way to a two set victory.
Then came the Monte Carlo masters, in which he had been a finalist last year and had lost the title to Djokovic. Nadal returned to the red clay in an attempt to reclaim the title that had been his from 2005–2012. As expected the King of Clay won his first two matches with ease. His victory against Andreas Seppi in the third round brought his career clay court wins to 300, a feat achieved by only ten other players. In the quarter-finals, though, Nadal would succumb to the relentless attack of David Ferrer. It was the first time Ferrer had beaten Nadal on clay in ten years and the first time Nadal failed to reach the Monte-Carlo final since his first stint in the tournament as a qualifier in 2003.
Then came the most awaited set of Nadal performances for the year, the French Open. Nadal entered the second Major of the year with a 59–1 record at the event. By the end of the tournament Nadal would extend this record to 66–1 by claiming his record fifth consecutive and record ninth French Open title with a four set victory over Djoker. He won his first four rounds against Robby Ginepri, Dominic Thiem, Leonardo Mayer, and Dušan Lajović, respectively, without dropping a set. In the quarter-finals, he faced last year’s finalist, Ferrer. He dropped the opening set, his first of the tournament, but went on to win in four sets. In the semi-finals, he put on a devastating display and lost only six games as he dispatched Andy Murray in straight sets. The final was a rematch of last year’s semifinal and the 2012 final as well as his 42nd match against Novak Djokovic. In winning his 9th Roland Garros title, Nadal became the only player to have won one Grand Slam for ten consecutive years.
Then came the most prestigious tournament on the calendar, The Wimbledon. Looking for a shot at redemption after not being able to perform in 2012 and 2013, he had a rickety start as he dropped the opening set against Martin Clizan but then recovered in the next 4 putting an end to his blitz. Up next was his 2012 conqueror, Rosol. Rosol looked capable of pulling out the upset once again as he led by a set and a break, but Nadal righted the ship and got revenge for his 2012 defeat by pulling the match out in four. Nadal again recovered from a set down against Mikhail Kukushkin in the third round, marking the first time in his career that he won three consecutive matches after dropping the first set. Nadal went on to face 19 year old wildcard Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round and once again dropped the opening set, but was unable to recover this time and succumbed to Kyrgios in four sets. It was Nadal’s first defeat to a player born in the 1990s and the first time a teenager had beaten the World No. 1 at a Grand Slam since Nadal himself beat Roger Federer at the 2005 French Open.
Then came the season of pain for Nadal, as for most of the upcoming tournaments, he had to back out or lose due to his injuries.
Cincinnati masters, US open and Canadian open saw defending champion Nadal withdraw due to an injury in his right hand. Trying to return heriocally, during the China open, his lack of preparation and practice was evident as he was beaten by Martin Klizan in the quarters.
Before his opening match in the Shanghai masters, Nadal announced that he had been receiving aggressive medical treatment for appendicitis in hopes of avoiding surgery until the end of the tennis season. The effects of this ailment, though, could be seen in his movement and play in his opening match as Feliciano Lopez handed him a straight set defeat.
Rafa officially withdrew from the Paris masters, ATP finals (after qualifying) and the US Open due to severe appendicitis as he had to go a severe 2 month procedure to recover.
Here’s to hoping that the legend returns in all his glory next year!