For top seed Rafael Nadal, it’s looking a lot like 2013. Already with a tour-leading six titles in 2017, including the French and US Opens, the 31-year-old Spaniard is putting together his best season in years and hopes to add the Shanghai Rolex Masters to the tally for the first time. If he does he will the third player since 2012, joining Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, to score a China double having won Beijing the week before.
After amassing ten titles in 2013, Nadal struggled with various injuries, almost dropping out of the Top 10. Last year in particular was grim, his worst season in more than a decade, winning only two tournaments and pulling out of the French Open in the third round with a wrist injury. Fans and pundits alike wondered whether Nadal would ever return to the top of the game.
Fit and battle-ready in 2017, Nadal has indeed returned with a vengeance, making the taste of victory that much sweeter.
“Is better don’t have injuries, but at the same time the injuries – the only positive thing about injury is when you come back and when you have success, you appreciate it even much more,” he said.
It seems like just yesterday that a teenaged Nadal burst onto the scene in 2005, winning the first French Open he ever played and putting together one of the greatest seasons ever, racking up eleven titles including four ATP Masters 1000 trophies.
Nadal said: “The best news for me is after a lot of years I still competitive, I still enjoying tennis. I think I am able to adapt my game to the new times. That’s important thing for me, and I feel lucky for that.”
After so many years at the very top of the game, nothing much phases Nadal now, including regaining the No. 1 ranking after more than four years. “During the year never was my goal to be where I am today, but of course I always say the same, no? Is much better be No. 2 than No. 3 and No. 1 than No. 2,” Nadal said.
Despite winning almost everything there is to win in tennis, Nadal’s trophy case is absent a certain magnolia-shaped Selangor pewter trophy. In seven appearances, Nadal has been to the finals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters only once, losing to Nikolay Davydenko way back in 2009. Even so, he comes in this year as a firm favorite, riding a 12-match hard court winning streak that encompasses titles in New York and Beijing, his first on Chinese soil since winning gold at the 2008 Beijing games.
“Here we are in Shanghai and is another important event for me. Is just another Masters 1000 that I gonna fight to be ready for compete the best way possible. Let’s see if I am able to make that happen. I felt ready to be here, and here I am,” Nadal said.
Maybe this is the year the “Spanish Bull” is crowned champion of the Shanghai Rolex Masters?