Rafael Nadal added another season in the top 20 and increased his account to more than 850 consecutive weeks in the group mentioned as the third player after Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors. The 18-year-old Nadal ranked outside of the top 50 in early 2005, hampered by injuries the previous season and determined to show his full potential. After reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, a teenager conquered Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco on his beloved clay in February. Rafa skipped Indian Wells and gathered energy for Miami, where he lost a close final to Roger Federer after coming within two points of victory and the Masters 1000 crown. On April 4, Nadal made the top 20 for the first time and used that momentum to conquer Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros. After lifting the first Major crown, the youngster became Roger Federer’s closest rival, improving his game on all surfaces and placing himself in the top-2. Nadal has never left the top 20 group after breaking it in April 2005, embracing an incredible streak and becoming the third player since 1973 with 850 consecutive weeks at that company after Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer. Nadal has never broken out of the top 10 since late April 2005, overcoming all setbacks with injuries, especially in 2015 and 2016, and staying competitive for more than 15 years. Returning stronger in 2017, Nadal returned to the top 2 following the first Roland Garros win since 2014 and remained there until this year when he had to resign due to injuries and just 29 ATP matches.
Nadal is continuing to work out
Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev feels Roger Federer, 41, will have a harder time making a comeback than Rafael Nadal, 35, because of their age difference. “With Rafa it will be a bit easier than with Roger since Rafa hasn’t been away that long and he is five years younger than Roger,” said Zverev. “Roger has already achieved many things where we said: That’s not possible. That’s why I wouldn’t write him off. It won’t be easy, but tennis changes and becomes faster. At some point, this is no longer easy. There is no bigger Roger fan than me, but I don’t know how easy it is to make another comeback at almost 41 years after a knee surgery,” he added. Echoing Zverev’s sentiments, six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker said it’s “unrealistic” to think Federer can recapture his best form when he returns to the tour. “With Federer we all don’t dare to say that he might not play any more, especially since it’s unrealistic that you can return to the top of the world after such a long break and at this age,” he said. “I am the last one to say Roger should stop but it has to be realistic.”