I said I would refrain from reading Rafael Nadal’s tealeaves until next season, but Peter Bodo at tennis.com offered this provocative analysis after this weekend’s Shanghai final:
So the real issue, looking to Nadal’s future, is: To what degree can he recapture the form and aura he enjoyed until a few weeks after the Australian Open? Maybe his fate is inextricably linked to that of his great rival, Federer. Maybe one without the other diminishes the abilities of both (although Federer shot holes in that one at Wimbledon). Maybe we were just lucky these past few years to enjoy a whole – the rivalry – that was more than a sum of its parts. Maybe the glory days of Roger vs. Rafa are over, and a new chapter begins.
Federer is now coated with the Teflon of his career and accomplishments; whatever comes next for him may be dramatic, gut-wrenching or glorious. But it can only enhance his legacy; there is no down-side for Federer. Nadal, being younger, is the more interesting case. For it’s beginning to look as if having Federer out of the way doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to Nadal’s own fortunes. The combined effects of frequent injury and the fact that Federer has for all intents and purposes run his race, leaves Nadal in new territory. He has a new set of questions to which he’ll have to come up with original answers on any given day.
Click here to read the entire piece.
To add a more fuel to the debate, Andre Agassi recently predicted the end of the Federer/Nadal era:
“Now we have possibly the changing of the guard. You have those top two who are now losing ground to the likes of (Novak) Djokovic and Murray and (Juan Martin) del Potro.”
And Agassi thinks Rafa’s knee tendinitis may be a career-changer: “If you’re struggling with your knee, it tends to be recurring and not to be easy to do, so I got to believe he’ll struggle with it probably for his career.” (quotes via AP)
Well, Roger and Rafa still won 3 out of 4 majors this season, and 4 out of 4 in 2006 and 2007. So declaring “the Kings are dead!” seems a little presumptuous (right, Mrs. Djokovic?) Of course, if Roger retired tomorrow (God forbid) he’d still hold the all-time record for career Majors and be considered the G.O.A.T. If Rafa’s career should peter out at 23 or 24 years old – a scenario that both Bodo and Agassi are deeming possible by including him in this “end of the glory days” talk – Rafa’s will be a story of U.P.: unfulfilled potential.
I’m still sipping my tea until next season. Remember when Roger Federer smashed his racquet in Miami and the Fed-pocalypse was nigh? If I’ve learned one thing this year, it is to never underestimate a Champion.