Rafael Nadal skipped the Miami Open after the physical problems suffered during Indian Wells, which did not allow the Spaniard to take the court in the much-awaited semi-final against Roger Federer. Nadal will try to take advantage of this period of rest and physical recovery, in order to present himself at the top for the upcoming clay swing, to try to win his twelfth French Open.
Since the start of the season, Rafa has reached and lost the Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic, he made the second round in Acapulco, losing to Nick Kyrgios and he reached the Indian Wells semi-finals. The biggest problem for Nadal, besides the usual continuous physical ones, is the new superiority of Djokovic on the Tour.
As long as Djokovic continues to play at this physical and mental level, it will be hard for Nadal to impose himself on hard and grass courts. However, the Spaniard will try to go all-in in the clay season. This year maybe it will be more difficult than the past seasons, but, like every year, Nadal will be the favorite during all the tournaments that will play on clay courts.
Despite he will start as a favorite, he will have to watch his back from Djokovic who, on clay, can be considered dangerous, and Dominic Thiem. The Austrian is the fresh winner of Indian Wells and finalist at the latest edition of Roland Garros.
The Serb and the Austrian are the biggest threats to the domain of Rafa on clay courts. Everything will depend on the state of Nadal's physical form. The athletic factor will be the discriminating factor of success or failure: if Nadal reaches the top of his physical condition during the clay season, then no opponent, not even the most-in-shape Djokovic, could hinder him on his favorite surface.
Historically, Nadal has reached the peak of his form during the second week of the French Open. Over the past two years, he defeated all his opponents on clay courts. This year he is always working for the same goal, and skipping the Miami Open, as well as a precaution, can be important to get fresh, rested and relaxed in April.