Rafael Nadal played just three ATP hard court tournaments in 2018, winning the title in Toronto and playing well at the Australian Open and the US Open. Eager to improve his game on the more common surface and avoid injury, the Spaniard decided to make significant changes to his serve and approach, adopting a new service move and striking more courageously with his first groundstroke than ever. Utilizing the favorable draw and producing his best game, Nadal sailed to the final of the Australian Open in 2019, beating all six opponents in straight sets before falling to Novak Djokovic in his most brutal final loss in Major. Nadal defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 47 minutes in the quarters, yielding 17 points on serve and producing four breaks to advance to the semifinals and put up the shock of Stefanos Tsitsipas. After beating Tiafoe, Nadal said that he is delighted with how he played in Melbourne up to that point. The Spaniard attacked with both the serve and the forehand to gain advantage on the court and kept the points on his racket, which was not always the case in the past. Additionally, Rafa praised fellow semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, saying that he made impressive improvements and became a notable title contender. Tsitsipas claimed the ATP Next Gen Finals crown in November 2018, gaining momentum and playing at a high level in Melbourne two months later for a huge turnout that included a stellar win over Roger Federer.
Nadal announced he hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury
Prakash Amitraj recently gave his thoughts on the withdrawals of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal from the rest of the 2021 season. Drawing parallels between the two players’ respective injury layoffs, Amritraj claimed that Nadal’s recovery to full fitness would likely be easier than Federer’s. “I don’t think so. I think Roger has a few more years on Rafa and it’s a little bit more serious injury,” Amritraj said. “Roger’s been battling with this for some time now, and it’s the knee, and a surgery. A little bit of a different scenario.” The Indian also referred to Nadal’s withdrawal statement, where he expressed hope of recovering fully by next year. “Rafa, it’s the foot,” Amritraj said. “I saw him up close in DC, it was bothering him there. He still fought really hard, very impressive as he always is. I think it was a more managable injury. Listen, Rafa’s made it very clear, he put out a statement saying I’m going to do whatever it takes to get myself in a position to compete for what motivates me the most,” Amitraj added.