Rafael Nadal is close to Roger Federer, but will he run out of time?
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 13336
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the only players with 800 weeks in the top-5. The Swiss leads the chart with 859, and the Spaniard is 22 weeks behind him. Rafa made a great return to the top in 2017, settling into the top-5 and reducing the deficit to Roger.
A 22-time Major champion needs six more months in the elite group to catch and pass his great rival, and there's a question mark above that achievement. Nadal has been dealing with injuries for the last couple of years, bouncing back every time but losing ground since the last year's Wimbledon.
Rafa's 837th top-5 week came in the second week of the Australian Open, and he left the group after failing to defend the title at the season's first Major. Nadal has played only 13 matches after the last year's Wimbledon, struggling with an abdominal injury and missing a chance to become world no.
1 at the US Open. The Spaniard led the ATP Race after claiming the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2022, but he could not keep that pace after several setbacks. The most recent one came in the Australian Open second round a few weeks ago when he injured his left hip against Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal suffered a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss, allowed four rivals to pass him on the ATP ranking list and dropped out from the top-5 after over a year. Rafa experienced a Grade 2 iliopsoas injury and will miss six to eight weeks. Thus, the Spaniard could leave the top-10 for the first time since April 2005 if he fails to recover until Indian Wells!
Rafa came to Melbourne without any form, struggling with an injury for months and experiencing eight defeats in the previous 13 encounters.
Rafael Nadal stands 22 top-5 weeks behind Roger Federer.
Nadal beat Jack Draper in the first round before falling to McDonald in straight sets, struggling right from the start and feeling the pain since the end of the second set.
McDonald played well and stayed focused against an injured rival to advance into the third round. The Spaniard made a top-5 debut after winning the 2005 Rome Masters 1000 event, still at 18. It was Nadal's second Masters 1000 crown within two months, earning it following an epic victory over Guillermo Coria in the decisive tie break after five hours and 15 minutes.
Rafa became the sixth-youngest top-5 player since the start of the ATP ranking and the first to achieve that before turning 19 since Michael Chang in 1989! Nadal cemented his position with the first Major crown at Roland Garros in June, becoming the second-strongest link on the Tour behind Roger Federer.
The Spaniard stayed in the top-5 for the next ten years, regularly improving his game and becoming one of the most accomplished competitors. Nadal had to leave the elite top-5 group for a year after losing ground a bit in 2015 and 2016 due to injuries and lack of form.
He returned in April 2017 following the Monte Carlo title and embraced another streak with over 200 consecutive weeks in the top-5. Nadal battled with Novak Djokovic for the ATP throne in 2018 and 2019, improving his run and moving closer to the magical number of 800.
Rafa achieved that in May last week, joining Roger on the list and setting his eyes on the Swiss' record. Nadal has to defend 3100 points in Acapulco, Indian Wells and Roland Garros, which seems unlikely now. However, he can gain many points at the clay Masters 1000 events if he recovers his form.
Also, Rafa has almost nothing to defend after Roland Garros, and we could see him back inside the top-5 if he recovers and plays injury-free for the rest of the season.