There was exactly one bright and shining moment in Nadal’s year: Victory for a record ninth time at Roland Garros. Other than that, the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s season started poorly, and went from bad to worse.
It looked as if Nadal began to make a final push to topple Roger Federer’s record mark of majors at the very first major of the year, the Australian Open. He belted his way to the final, defeating Federer in straight sets along the way, but in the title match his back seized up and Stan Wawrinka emerged as champion. The Spaniard would suffer a far more shocking if not inexplicable upset in the fourth round at Wimbledon to teenager Nick Kyrgios, then hurt his wrist—the injury so severe that it kept him from defending his U.S. Open title. When Nadal returned in the fall, he was stricken with appendicitis. Only a player of Nadal’s caliber can make a third-place finish—a career year for so many others—seem disappointing.