Rafael Nadal's fitness is even better going into this year's Wimbledon


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Rafael Nadal's fitness is even better going into this year's Wimbledon

Rafa Nadal's historic 12th win at the French Open puts him in full contention to challenge for a third Wimbledon title. He will be looking to repeat the same momentous journey he accomplished in both 2008 and 2010, hoping to cruise from Roland Garros to the green of the All England Club.

Nadal sits just two slams behind Roger Federer, for the first time since he first started winning majors. The 33-year-old is also playing injury-free and will be heading into grass season fully fit and with optimum energy. Nadal's fitness already indicates that he could achieve another Wimbledon, even if he is the third favorite among the Big 3.

Injuries have wreaked havoc on the 18-slam champion's career. Timing-wise, these nagging injuries usually manifest after a tense and hard-hitting clay season. Nadal has had a pattern of dealing with these troublesome impairments during the later part of the tennis season, culminating in an uneven later half of the hardcourt run.

This has contributed to his inability to win the ATP Finals, which occur at the end of the tennis calendar. However, Rafa's form has followed a different pattern this year. He ended hard court season early, by pulling out of his Federer match at Indian Wells, with a knee injury.

The 33-year-old didn't quite begin the clay season in full fitness, with his confident dominance manifesting rather late, peaking at Rome. The rest, of course, is tennis history. The 12-time RG champion followed up Rome with a fully charged form that ploughed through all the competition like a freight train at the French, only dropping two sets during the whole two weeks.

The build-up factor may be key going into grass season. Like last year, Rafael Nadal has opted for rest and relaxation over playing matches leading up to Wimbledon. The injury concerns seem to be behind him for now, and perhaps the two-time Wimbledon champ will emerge a more recuperated player-- and contender-- for the gentleman's trophy this July.

Although no longer coaching Rafa, his Uncle Toni, seems to think he's even more confident than he was last year, when he got to the semifinals and went out after a gruelling five-setter with 2018 champ Novak Djokovic.

“When I talked with him on Sunday, I told Rafa, ‘I think you have the possibility to win Wimbledon this year again’,” Toni Nadal said, according to Tennis Channel (tennis.com), now the head of his academy.

“Last year he was very close, I think he had the possibility to win and I want to hope that this year will be possible." Nadal has withdrawn from Queen's Club, and Wimbledon will be his only grass tournament this year.

"I know Federer is there, Djokovic is there, Dominic [Thiem], many good players, but I think that Rafael has the possibility, because it’s impossible to work well, without confidence," added Uncle Toni. "So he has to think that”.

Although Rafa's only won four grass tournaments on the ATP Tour, like Federer and Djokovic, the Spaniard has a remarkable ability to close at grand slams. Two of those four were at the All England Club, and he will be hungry to close in on the Swiss's 20-slam tally as much as possible.

However, the Majorcan will have stiff competition from the other stalwart members of the Big 3. Although he beat Federer on Phillipe Chartrier, Federer's performance on clay after a three-year absence impressed most. Djokovic regained some of the dip in form he experienced after his Australian Open win.

He will be looking to defend his title and also surge forward in the race to chase Federer's 20. Andy Murray recently said that the Wimbledon winner will likely be one of those three. Even if the Big 3 are closer to their retirements than any other time, they are continuing to define their last acts in the best possible light, and insisting on finishing up on top.