Former world number one Rafael Nadal is enjoying arguably one of his best years on tour in recent years. The 15-time Grand Slam champion suffered a loss of confidence and numerous injury problems, most notably his wrist in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old has reinvigorated himself and he has become a force on the ATP World Tour once more. The ten-time French Open champion is within touching distance of regaining the world number one ranking. The reigning world number one Andy Murray is struggling with a hip injury, and he has struggled to push on from last year.
Nadal's most notable rival for the world number one ranking will be the 19-time Grand Slam champion, Roger Federer. The eight-time Wimbledon champion is unbeaten in Grand Slam matches in 2017 after winning his fifth Australian Open, and he opted to skip the entire clay court swing including the French Open. The Swiss number one is back in the top three, and he has no points to defend for the rest of the year. This midseason review will look at the Spaniard's stellar season thus far.
The world number two has a healthy 43-6 win-loss record in 2017. The Spaniard has lost to Roger Federer three times, he lost to Sam Querrey in the final in Acapulco along with losses to Dominic Thiem in Rome and most recently to Gilles Muller at Wimbledon.
The former world number one began his 2017 season in Brisbane instead of Doha, where he usually starts his campaign. It is the final year that his uncle Toni will be a member of his coaching team. Fellow Spaniard and former French Open champion Carlos Moya has joined his coaching team. He lost to Moya's former charge Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals in Brisbane. Furthermore, Nadal's next tournament was the Australian Open, where he won his lone title in 2009. Nadal was bidding to become the first player since Rod Laver to win multiple Grand Slam titles at the same Slam.
The Spaniard had a tough path to his first Grand Slam final since winning the French Open in 2014. He defeated the likes of Florian Mayer, Marcos Baghdatis, Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic. He needed five sets to dispatch Alexander Zverev in the third round and Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals to reach the final for the fourth time. Despite leading by a break in the final set, Nadal lost to his eternal rival Federer, who clinched his first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion lost to Federer for the third time in 2017 in the final of the Miami Open. Nadal is yet to win the title in the Miami. However, the Spaniard lost his first three finals of 2017 but it changed when the European clay court season came around. Nadal claimed an Open Era record 50th career title on clay, which was his 70th career title. He also became the first man to win ten titles at a single event in Monte Carlo. He defeated compatriot Albert Ramos Vinolas who was competing in a Masters 1000 final for the first time. The former world number one won his second title of the year in Barcelona after defeating Dominic Thiem in the final. The Spaniard continued his good run of form at the Caja Magica in Madrid.
He dispatched the likes of Fabio Fognini, Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, Novak Djokovic and Thiem for the second successive tournament. Nadal was on a 15-match winning streak heading into Rome and his winning run came to a halt at the hands of Thiem in Rome. Nonetheless, for the third time in his career, Nadal won the French Open without dropping a set. In fact, no player managed to take more than four games against him in a set. He defeated the likes of Benoit Paire, Robin Haase, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta and Thiem to reach the final. In the final, he defeated 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka who was previously unbeaten in Grand Slam finals.
There have not been many low points in what has been an outstanding season for the world number one. However, despite cruising through the draw at Acapulco, a tournament where he never lost a set or a match. He suffered a shocking defeat to Sam Querrey in his second final of the year. The Spaniard suffered another defeat to Federer who was simply too hot to handle in their fourth round clash in Indian Wells. Once again, the two-time Wimbledon champion failed to reach the quarterfinals at SW19. However, he did manage to reach the fourth round, where he lost to Gilles Muller in a five-set epic. Moreover, it was his first lost to a seeded player at Wimbledon since he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final in 2011. However, like Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown who beat Nadal at Wimbledon, Muller joined that list of players, who failed to win their next match.
The Spaniard's standout results in 2017 have been his history making, tenth French Open title triumph. Along with his victories in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid. The 15-time Grand Slam champion was a runner-up at the Australian Open, Acapulco, and Miami. Nadal lost to Thiem in the quarterfinals in Rome.
Losing in the fourth round of Indian Wells and Wimbledon are not poor results by any stretch of the imagination but they are the two events, where Nadal failed to reach the quarterfinals.
Midseason Grade: A
Many had written off Nadal, about his days of winning a Grand Slam title or returning to the top of the game were over as he suffered from injuries and a loss of confidence. However, the break which Nadal took has done him so good along with Federer as the two legends, have both reached two Grand Slam finals each in 2017 and have simply dominated the tour once again.
The former world number one will be hoping to avoid any more injury problems in 2017 and he is not set to return to tennis until the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. Nadal's last triumph in Montreal was in 2013 when he defeated Canada's Milos Raonic. The Spaniard will be hoping to close the gap on Federer in terms of Slams at the US Open, and he will be looking to reduce the deficit to three Slams once again.