Is Rafa Nadal Really Back? TBD, But At Least He’s Back On Hardcourts This Weekend
by Sean Randall | March 6th, 2013, 11:23 am

After two blistering wins over the weekend en route to the Acapulco title, many on the internet, on this site and in social media were quick to declare that Rafael Nadal was back! Back with an exclamation point, or two!! But is he really?

Sure, it’s nice to see Nadal back on the court, back to winning clay titles again but he’s not back to where he was a few years ago in 2010-2011 when he was also lighting up his rivals like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and of course Roger Federer. That was the real Rafa. This version, not so, no?

As I said yesterday, I still think Rafa has a lot of work to do and hurdles to clear.

First, regarding Acapulco. He did play well, there’s no question about it. Nicolas Almagro pushed him a little Friday night but then he really revved up his game obliterating his buddy David Ferrer 6-0, 6-2 in the finale. So with good reason Nadal was all smiles Monday for that light hit-around in NYC. But…

I felt Ferrer played like crap. He’s bad against Nadal anyway – I think he had lost 18 straight sets on clay to Nadal entering – and in that match he was uncharacteristically missing his margins badly. Of course Nadal will make you do that but on the whole I thought it was a very poor performance from Ferrer, and he even said as much afterward.

So while the result was eye-popping, I don’t think it signals that he’s ready for battle with the likes of Djokovic. And especially not on hardcourts which has been up to this point in his career his most trying surface.

Nadal hasn’t won a title on the cement since 2010 Tokyo (2.5 years ago) and his most recent final came 13 months ago at the 2012 Australian Open. And in his most recent hardcourt event – Miami last March – he had to withdraw with that damn knee. He couldn’t even finish the tournament.

Now he comes in with that same problematic knee. A knee that Nadal admits is still not 100%. With the all-important clay season around the corner, is he really going to risk it if he feels any kind of twinge? Unfortunately, in some ways that knee is just a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off at any moment and the hardcourts only increase the chance the fuse gets lit. It’s a shame but that’s the reality.

So I really have my doubts with Rafa this month. Let’s remember that even when his knees were 100% healthy he still had a tough time on harcourts – did you know Nadal hasn’t won a hardcourt Tennis Masters title this decade (last being the 2009 Indian Wells event)? And at least for now some of Rafa’s locker room aura has to be gone. That’s why I do give guys like Mikhail Youzhny and Janko Tipsarevic a chance against the Spaniard at IW. While he’s not having a great year, Youzhny is 4-5 against Nadal on hardcourts. Not bad! Tipsarevic has been wounded of late, but if he’s healthy I think he can trouble Nadal. They really haven’t played on a hardcourts (only time was 2007 US Open when the Serb retired). The guy is pesky, though and he can pull off big win on this surface. And speaking of pesky, Nadal could get pushed around right out of the gate by Ryan Harrison in his opener.

Federer isn’t at his best either anymore, but heck, he beat Nadal a year ago when Rafa was playing much better and had healthier knees (the weather may have also discomfited Nadal in that one).

And that’s why I’m not ready to get caught up in the Rafa is back hype. Not yet anyway. If he beats guys like Federer and Tomas Berdych next week and makes the final where he gives Novak a run, then I’ll be a believer. Until then at least we get to see back on the hard stuff. And for now that’s enough for me.

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69 Comments for Is Rafa Nadal Really Back? TBD, But At Least He’s Back On Hardcourts This Weekend

Giles Says:

We will just have to wait and see, no?
Patience is a virtue!

skeezer Says:


Writing about Rafa? Now you’ve done it. ;)

Brando Says:

The man HIMSELF said he won’t be 100% until MC, so ONLY the sensationalist media and over excitable fans/ observers will declare him as being back to his old self prior to then! Let’s just wait and see at IW: FACT is it’s his first HC event in over a year, so he’ll hardly blitz the field here! I think his fans understand that- fans of other players who are suspicious of rafa’s threat to their fav need to get with the reality of his situation also!

Brando Says:

PS: IF Nole was out for 7 months and then played IW as his first HC event in almost a year- would we consider him a strong or real threat for the title? WE WOULD NOT do so! Why? Since it is a silly, UNREALISTIC expectation to have for a player back after so long against the high class, battle hardened opponents he would face! So I do not see why we are expecting wonders from rafa here- IMHO as a fan of his I think it is silly to do so when one considers his situation as objectively as they possibly can!

alison Says:

Brando yeah spot on,as regards to what ive seen of Rafa,lets just say i like what ive seen so far and theres reason for optimism,but also reason for caution too especially with this been his 1st HC tourney back in a year,to expect him to blitz everyone in sight would be unrealistic for even the most die hard of his fans,and whats more the majority seem to understand that anyway,he could spring a surprise who knows?and fans know that Rafa will give it his best shot,and loves nothing more than proving people wrong,im just delighted he will be back playing on a HC,and the rest is a bonus at the moment.

Brando Says:

‘ Until then at least we get to see back on the hard stuff. And for now that’s enough for me.’

That makes 2 of us who share that reasoned sentiment!

alison Says:


Brando Says:


Astute post. You have summed up rafa’s scenario pretty correctly IMO.

Off to do the bracket challenge now, hopefully.

Picking rafa as the winner of course! :-)

alison Says:

Brando nah you got there 1st,i filled out my bracket this morning,dont hate me but i picked a Murray/Fed final with Murray winning,and no disrespect to Nole/Roger,Murray winning would be the next best thing,i picked Roger over Rafa in the semis,and that would be fantastic for Rafa in his 1st HC tourney back to get that far,but if your right and Rafa were to win IW nothing would give me greater pleasure,than to see my bracket completely f*cked up lol.

Margot Says:

Gr8 to see Rafa back, that old draw doesn’t seem nearly so lop sided any more ;)

Brando Says:


LOL, just completed my bracket.

I have a Andy v Rafa final with…… Andy winning.

The fanboy in me just could not give in to reality re Rafa- hence his excellent run.

But Andy is my pick. For the following:

1- Air of uncertainty: IMO the season is still young and outside AO nothing of real note has been played that can determine this year’s potential outcome.

Now rafa wasn’t at AO and this is the first FULL field of the year in many people’s opinion. The top 4 names have certain question marks against them:

– Nole: Can he continue on his rampaging form or will he have his inevitable lose here?

– Fed: Will he sink or swim in this tourny after recent disappointment’s?

– Andy: What has he been cooking up post AO with the deadly Lendl?

– Rafa: Where is his game truly at on his return?

All this makes me go for a gut feeling that tells me we will have a surprise here at IW.

2- Andy may want this more than ANYONE: He is CLEARLY targeting IW and MIAMI this year.

Post AO he has been training hard for this swing, so surely he will be well prepared and eager to do some serious damage in this swing.

And he has the most to gain here: no.2 ranking IF he does extremely well here.

I think he will.


Andy has got the game to do well here. Many forget that he has been a RU at IW in the past.

That along with the fact of his improved fitness, game and above all else mental strength make him a huge contender for the title IMO.

4- Can go toe to toe with Nole and win:


And IMO i think Andy can beat him here for sure.

He has the game to trouble nole on outdoor HC: he won the big one in USO and had MP in Shanghai.

In the AO final he won the first said and should have broken nole early in set 2. 2-0 love up and he could have won IMO.

But that is talking IF’S- reality is nole won.

However, this being a best of 3 means Andy’s fitness will hold up fine throughout the match, and IMHO his game really is good enough to beat nole here.

There matches are 50/50: i think Andy get’s a win against him here.


I think Andy is hungry for this title and he’ll get it IMO.

He has the no.2 ranking as an incentive and that is something that i feel he is gunning for.

Ben Pronin Says:

Their matches aren’t 50/50. Novak is the favorite. Murray just happens to be the only guy with a reasonable shot so it looks like 50/50.

nadalista Says:

“So while the result was eye-popping, I don’t think it signals that he’s ready for battle with the likes of Djokovic. And especially not on hardcourts which has been up to this point in his career his most trying surface.”

Totally agree with you, Sean.

Giles Says:

Not expecting too much from Rafa here. Just hope he feels good, knees are OK and he gets a few matches under his belt. He treats IW and Miami (if he plays there) as preparation for the clay swing. And more importantly I hope he enjoys himself. I know he favours IW very much with the golf aspect thrown in. Am sure Larry Ellinson, tourney owner and Rafa fan boy is delighted that Rafa is playing in IW. #VamosChamp

Giles Says:

^^ Ellison not Ellinson

rafaeli Says:

Thanks for that Sean, but let’s just wait and see. These are all just words.

Thangs Says:

No one expects him to win IW…

but this article is utter nonsense…

skeezer Says:

^but he could.

Michael Says:

He is yet again showing to the World his mastery on Clay courts. But I am not sure about his chances on hard courts. Indian Wells would surely be an curtain raiser and become an yardstick to judge Nadal’s performance. Being seeded sixth, he might probably encounter the top three sooner than later. All said and done, Indian Wells would be quite interesting just from the point of view of Nadal’s much heralded come back. Is he back stronger or weaker ? The results would tell !!

rafaeli Says:

Michael, so Nadal is seeded 6th is he?

Rafa loves being the under-dog. He loves people to say he can’t do this or that. In fact he thrives on talking himself down. He’ll be going to IW with absolutely no pressure whatsoever because no one expects anything of him and that suits him fine.

alison Says:

Michael its his 1st HC tourney for a year,hardly surprising that his fans are downplaying his chances and Rafas doing the same anyway,it would be ridiculous to expect him to blitz everyone straight away,so i dont really understand what your getting at?

nadalista Says:

Is Rafa Nadal Really Back? Xisca says , Yes! Cor blimey, is there a cuter couple out there? And Xisca is one HOT mama………

alison Says:

Nadalista nice link,and great photos,Xisca is beautiful,and is one lucky lady, Rafa is one hot piece of eye candy.

nadalista Says:

Check out this facebook page, @alison, there’s more!

Okay, I’m ready for IW now…….mmm’kay?

nadalista Says:

On a more serious note:

RT @jon_wertheim, “Tennis Anti-Doping Programme to introduce athlete biological passport from 2013”

RT @AndrewCastle63, “Tennis to introduce biological passports, more blood tests and more out of competition testing. This from all governing bodies.Players happy”

alison Says:

Nadalista nice thanks.

Michael Says:

Alison, All that I am doing monitoring Rafa’s performance on hard court is judging where his game is at currently. He faces the real challenge only there. It is good that he proved yet again that he is a master on Clay courts by annihilating a player of calibre namely Ferrer, but it will be hard courts where the real gamut lies. I am not expecting him to win hard court tournaments right away. But if he manages to reach the semi-final at Indian Wells, then that would be a stupendous achievement judging by any standards. Let us just wait and watch. Indian Wells has gained more excitement with the participation of Rafa and the heightened expectations on his performance. Will Rafa live up to it ? We will know soon.

Michael Says:


Yeah, right now Rafa is seeded sixth. But things change pretty quickly. After French, he has everything to gain.

rafaeli Says:

Rafa is not seeded 6th he is seeded 5th.

rafaeli Says:

Not that it’s of any relevance, I just want you to get your facts right.

alison Says:

Michael yeah he and his fans are not expecting much on the HCs anyway,so in actual fact he can play without too much pressure and probably a bit more freely,to see him playing on a HC is a bonus for his fans,and wins are a bonus at the moment,its just great to have him back,and looking so happy,like in that exho against Delpo.

nadalista Says:

@Michael, maybe Rafa will be seeded sixth in the future, who knows? But for now, Rafa is seeded fifth at Indian Wells in line with his current ATP Ranking.

alison Says:

I dont think Rafa has anything to lose at IW,as nobodys expecting him to do much there anyway,just as long as he does his best,is all one acan ask as a fan.

alison Says:

^Meant can not acan^.

skeezer Says:


Is that you I see at Roger Federer site? Say it isn’t so!

( btw some good talk there about the draw…and of course thanks for the link )

skeezer Says:

nadailsta re 6:13

Excellent news. The more they make an effort to keep it clean and make it public the less controversy there will be about it.

jane Says:

nadalistic, those tweets are good news. If they implement the testing and all turns out well, then hopefully it will quell the baseless accusations. And if some are caught, well then it’s meant to be too. I hope for the former.

jane Says:

sorry nadalista not ic! :)

jamie Says:

IW: Novak Djokovic
Miami: Andy Murray

Montecarlo: Novak Djokovic
Madrid: Novak Djokovic
Rome: Rafael Nadal
RG: Rafael Nadal

Queen’s: Andy Murray
Halle: Roger Federer
Wimbledon: Andy Murray

Montreal: Roger Federer
Cincinnati: Novak Djokovic
USO: Novak Djokovic

Shanghai: Andy Murray
Paris: Juan Martin Del Potro
WTF: Andy Murray

nadalista Says:

@jane, nadalistic? Guilty as charged!

@skeezer, no harm in checking out enemy lines!

More details on the biological passport:

nadalista Says:

^^^nice read, thanks @Giles.

Giles Says:

Rafa is 5 wins away from reaching 600 in his career.
Does anyone know his entitlements so far as the schedule is concerned once he reaches this 600 figure?

Giles Says:
Rafa on cover of French tennis magazine. My super hero!! Vamos!

rafaeli Says:

There is no entitlement for reaching 600 wins but players are allowed to miss one mandatory tournament after they’ve played 600 matches and Rafa reached that a long time ago.

Fleischer Says:

Wow 600 wins !!!!
Just missed an opportunity to get his 600th win over his favorite bunny (or punching bag).

Giles Says:

^^ Thanks. Was hoping he would be entitled to more. Oh well!

rafaeli Says:

Here is the rule:

1.08 Reduction of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Commitment

A. A player’s number of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 commitment tournaments shall be

reduced by one (1) tournament for reaching each of the following milestones:

1) 600 matches* (as of 1 January of the commitment year)

2) 12 years of service

3) 31 years of age (as of 1 January of the commitment year)

If all three (3) conditions are met then the player has a complete exemption from the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 player commitment.

The first Year of Service shall be the first calendar year in which a player has competed in at least twelve (12) tournaments offering ranking points.

So Federer can skip whatever he likes now as he has satisfied all three conditions.

Giles Says:

rafaeli. So Rafa will have no entitlements apart from one tourney until he is 31??

nadalista Says:

Some Rafa trivia for you Rafans:

The last time Nadal didn’t make the semi finals of IW was back in 2004 when he lost in the round of 32 to Augustin Calleri.(@juanjo_sports)

I am sure Rafa will want to keep his IW semis “streak” going…..

rafaeli Says:

Giles, I’m afraid so.

alison Says:

Nadalista/Giles thanks for the Rafa info,and great that hes broken 1 or 2 records of his own,and has his own streaks in tournies too.

alison Says:

Giles great photos,its lovely to see Rafa looking so happy,it just goes to show exactly how much it means to him to be back playing,and plain for all to see how much he loves the sport.

Giles Says:

alison. Yes, great to see him so happy and enjoying himself. Can’t imagine what he went through for 222 days! #VamosChamp

alison Says:

^Or his fans come to think of it^.

skeezer Says:

No worries Giles, I am sure his life is better than most, even if he never played another match in his life!!!

skeezer Says:

“Is Rafa Nadal Really Back?”

No, Rafa is really front.

You know you made the big time when TMZ reports on ya! LMAO

skeezer Says:

^ He needs to work on the saggy chest, Bench presses Rafa!

Nadalista Says:

^^Green eyed monster! You would be so lucky to have a bod like that!

Rafa needs to do absolutely nothing else with his chest, yum yum…………he is perfect.

Michael Says:

Alison, Rafa is always modest in his expectations. He sees threat even from a 100 ranked player and that is his way of approaching the sport. The very fact that he is playing in this tournament is a huge bonus and it has raised heightened expectations as fans will be watching Rafa on a hard court after a long time. As I said, if he reaches the semi-finals, he can be assured that he has done a good job. It is show time folks and let us all wait for the grandeur to start.

Michael Says:


You may be right. He was seeded sixth earlier but after that Mexican tournament win, may be his points have gone up and he is now seeded fifth at Indian Wells. If he is seeded fifth, then Berdych should be seeded sixth.

nadalista Says:


Please provide the link where Rafa was ever seeded sixth for IW 2013.

The FACT is: seedings are determined by players’ rankings (except for Wimbledon) and the lowest Rafa has fallen in the rankings from 2012 todate is 5, which is his current ranking, hence his seeding, 5.

No need for conjecture, just facts, plain for all to see. He may well tumble down to 6 in the rankings in future, but be patient, will you?

As @rafaeli pointed out earlier, it really makes no material difference whether Rafa is seeded 5 or 6, but let’s get our FACTS correct, shall we? It helps.

Giles Says:

skeezer. “saggy chest” lol. Were you looking in the mirror by any chance?? Yes? Ahh, now I can understand your comment!

alison Says:

Skeezer nah he looks mighty fine from where im standing/sitting whatever lol,anyway you get the picture,and as Nadalista says his chest is just perfect,and he doesnt need to do anything to it,but hell thats JMO for what its worth.

alison Says:

Giles that is such a cute picture of Simon and his little guy,and i loved 7 and 8 Rafa looks very handsome and classy in both of those photos.

Giles Says:

alison. Have a look at 49. Lol. Nutella joke cos Rafa loves Nutella!

alison Says:

Giles it only goes as high as no 20,well it does on my computer anyway.

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