Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
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It was just two weeks ago that we were talking about the greatness of Rafael Nadal. Nadal had just won his eighth French Open and the discussion of him being one of the greatest tennis players of all time was back up for debate. The Spaniard was riding high in the tennis world. That is, until today. Earlier today, Nadal lost to Steve Darcis from Belgium in straight sets during the first round of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. All of the greats will lose from time to time, but for Nadal, there is a pattern that is beginning to form.
From 2005-2010, young Rafael was taking the tennis world by storm. He won five of the six French Opens, an Australian Open in 2009, two Wimbledon’s in ’08 and ’10, a U.S. Open in 2010. He even capped off his legacy with an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2008 Summer Games. Between Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, they were, and still are, the kings of the sport. The one thing with Nadal is that, since 2010, he hasn’t been able to close it out at most of the Grand Slams. He has been in the finals at some, but besides the French Open, Nadal hasn’t been able to finish. I hate to say it, but at the ripe age of 27, I believe that Rafael Nadal is turning into somewhat of a specialist.
Before you call for me to be tarred and feathered in a public square, let me explain. It has now been three years since Nadal was relevant at any Grand Slam event, besides the French Open. That is due to the fact that for most of his career, Nadal has been almost untouchable when he plays on a clay court. For those of you that haven’t made the connection yet, the French Open has a clay surface. Stick with me here. Since 2005, Nadal has won 8 out of the 9 possible French Opens, which has without a doubt made him the king of the clay. He is still very young, but the way that I look at it, Rafael Nadal is the Ray Allen of professional tennis.
For the early part of his career with Milwaukee, Seattle and a few years in Boston, Ray Allen could do it all. He could shoot, dunk, dribble-drive, play the pick & roll and was one of the premier players in the NBA. Now for about the last 3-4 years, Allen has been known for just his 3-point shooting ability. I am not taking anything away from Ray, but shooting from the perimeter, is really all he is good for anymore. The same can be said for Nadal and the clay surface. For the last few years, he hasn’t been able to do much on a regular surface or, at any other Grand Slam for that matter. But when it comes to his bread and butter, the Captain of Clay gets unleashed almost every time.
I may have lost my mind for saying that 27 year-old Rafael Nadal is only relevant on a clay court nowadays, but I let the facts speak for themselves. Nadal may still be fairly young, and to his credit, he has won on non-clay surfaces before. But just remember, it isn’t always what you have done, but more of what you have done for me lately.