2015 Preview: ATP No. 3, Rafael Nadal

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.


Given that Nadal, among other things, was unable to defend his Grand Slam title in Flushing Meadows in 2014 (not the first time he was unable to defend a Slam title—he also skipped Wimbledon in 2009, the year after his memorable triumph over Federer at the All England Club), the best thing that could happen to the Spaniard might be to get through 2015 with no significant injuries or illnesses.

This is no state secret: Players prone to injury often tend to stay that way, as if mortality once compromised is never quite the same. The struggles that began for Nadal with knee trouble in 2009 have continued to interrupt his stellar career. He’s managed to sandwich some outstanding years in between bouts of breakdown and rehab, but eventually his absences will make it that much harder to rebound.

If Nadal can stay healthy through the Australian Open, his largely idle end of 2014 may turn out to be an asset. He’s still got a good game for the courts in Melbourne, and a 10th French Open would not be just a possibility but a probability.

For more 2015 season previews, click here.