Experience triumphed over youth for 33-year-old Rafael Nadal when he faced Nick Kyrgios, 24, in the second round at Wimbledon 2019. On the heels of his 12th French Open win, the Spanish world No. 2 has the experience. The big question: Will Rafa do the following four things in order to win Wimbledon 2019?
1. Make it past his main competitors
One of Nadal’s two main opponents, Federer, has more Grand Slam titles, finals, and match wins than any men’s singles player in history. While he’s known for his humility, Nadal would love to surpass the Swiss tennis star in any of those categories — and it isn’t a lofty goal. Federer has 20 titles; Nadal is only two behind. In the finals categories, Nadal is only four wins behind him. So, Wimbledon 2019 clearly means a lot.
One area Nadal does surpass Federer: the French Open. Rafa has four consecutive titles from 2010 to 2014 and an amazing 93-2 win-loss record overall. Many don’t see how these stats can ever be topped.
Don’t count Djokovic out, either. At 32, the Serbian tennis phenom has 15 Grand Slam titles and a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He’s also the only male player to win all nine of the ATP’s World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, with 33 Masters Series 1000 titles total.
2. Overcome the weather
Despite soaring temperatures in mainland Europe, the weather has agreed with Wimbledon play. However, forecasts reveal varying amounts of rainfall for the rest of this year’s competition. With Wimbledon’s grass courts, this means rain can wreak havoc on a game. The courts are protected with tarps, but a rain delay can affect any player’s mindset.
While training at the Santa Ponça tennis club, Nadal acknowledged that he’s experienced “two hard months (of play) on clay.” He explained, “Playing on the grass of Wimbledon after having done it on clay is the most radical transition in tennis.” If the weather at Wimbledon doesn’t give Nadal a smooth transition from clay to grass, he may experience trouble.
3. Stay healthy
Nadal was the last to pick up a Wimbledon win following a French Open title in the same year — and that was nine years ago. After this triumph, injuries and ailments plagued him.
As a child, Rafa was diagnosed with a congenital foot problem, Kohler’s disease. His style of play may be a result of this condition, which in turn affects his knees and back. The champion has also suffered wrist injuries and headaches. He’s tried to prevent these ailments from taking him out of the game for more than short periods of time. However, Nadal was forced to miss Wimbledon 2016 altogether.
4. Bolster his confidence
At times, the physical problems led to emotional ones, including a lack of confidence. Nadal pretty much wrote off 2019 until his French Open win boosted his confidence. (In 2018, he’d lost to Djokovic in five sets in the semifinals.)
Nadal’s uncle and longtime coach, Toni Nadal, told ESPN’s Simon Cambers, “I know that [Roger] Federer is there, Djokovic is there, Dominic [Thiem], many good players, but I want to think that Rafael has the possibility because it’s impossible to work well without confidence. I want to think that for Rafael, and he has to think that too.”
Nadal also spoke with Cambers: “I know I played a great event last year. … And as everybody knows, I am not able to play so many weeks in a row like I did 10 years ago, eight years ago. So I have to do my schedule [smartly].”
Now, fans turn their eyes to England. If the factors continue in his favor, he may get one step closer to tying Federer in Grand Slam titles.