Slumping Rafa Nadal facing career endgame
Rafael Nadal insists his career which has yielded 14 Grand Slam titles and $73 million is not finished, but evidence was mounting Friday that the Spaniard has reached the end of the road.
London: Rafael Nadal insists his career which has yielded 14 Grand Slam titles and $73 million is not finished, but evidence was mounting Friday that the Spaniard has reached the end of the road.
The 29-year-old Nadal suffered a fourth successive Wimbledon exit at the hands of a player ranked 100 and lower when dread-locked Rastafarian Dustin Brown dumped him out in the second round on Thursday.
It was another reality check for a man who was champion in 2008 and 2010 and runner-up in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
A player whose relentless attacking style is based on murderous hitting off both wings was always likely to have a sell-by date.
Increasingly it looks like 2015 is the endgame for Nadal who has won a legion of fans for his success on the court and engaging humility off it.
He was defeated in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and at the French Open this year.
In Paris, he had been a nine-time champion but his straight-sets defeat to Djokovic was only his second loss in 72 matches in a decade of dominance at Roland Garros.
The former world number one is ranked at 10, his lowest standing in 10 years.
Even his uncle Toni, who has coached him since he was four, was confessing to serious doubts over his nephew`s status in the sport.
"I want to think that Rafa can win the US Open, but the odds are small. It`s a worrying day," said Toni told Spanish media. For US tennis legend John McEnroe, it is time for Nadal to consider cutting the cord with his uncle.
"Rafael Nadal is one of the great champions -- a class act," McEnroe told BBC radio.
"He plays with a lot of effort and energy but, dare we say, is it time for some fresh blood in the Nadal camp? Can we say that? Uncle Toni`s going to be upset.
"He has done a magnificent job since he was a little kid and told him it was a good thing to go left-handed -- but clearly at this stage it would appear that some fresh ideas would be in order.
"I`m saying get a new damn coach!"
There are always questions over Nadal`s fitness after a career-long battle to preserve his knees as fit for purpose.
He has missed seven Grand Slams through injury since his 2003 debut at Wimbledon.
Three of those have come in the last three years.
He skipped the defence of his US Open title in 2014 due to a wrist injury and to add insult to injury he then underwent an appendectomy as he shut down most of the second half of the season.
Nadal believes the next two years will be crucial.
After all, his great rival Roger Federer won a seventh Wimbledon when he was almost 31 in 2012.
"If I carry on like this for two more years, we`ll see," Nadal told Spanish reporters late Thursday.
If he is never to add to his two Wimbledon titles, then he insists his record will stand the test of time.
"Even in the last couple of years I didn`t have the best relationship possible with grass," said Nadal.
"But it`s going to be in my heart and in my memories forever.
"Don`t forget I played five finals here. I don`t know how many players did that."