Rafael Nadal: Career Resurrection in Doubles?
After a superlative career in singles till 2014, Rafael Nadal is facing a crisis since then, be it due to injuries, the rise of Novak Djokovic — he has lost 11 of his last 12 matches against him — and Murray, other opponents figuring out his game, or simply a natural career decline with age.
He hasn’t won a Grand Slam title in more than two years, and hasn’t won a major outside clay for more than three. His decline is further evidenced by the fact that he is not only losing to Djokovic and Murray, but to players who would mentally lose to him the moment he entered the court. He has two matches which went five sets — and winning the battle of attrition was his speciality. In 2016 alone, he has lost to eight players outside of top 20. For years, he would not lose eight matches in an entire year.
However, as he continues to struggle to rediscover his magic in singles, he has added a new dimension to his game this year — his increased participation in doubles. He holds a respectable 12–2 record in doubles this year, and has won two titles, including the Olympics Gold.
Moreover, his success in doubles hasn’t been out of the blue. He has always been a vastly underrated doubles player. He has won 11 doubles titles — more than the total number of doubles titles won by rest of the big 4 combined. To put this into perspective, Roger Federer, who seems to be a more natural doubles player with his better volleying skills and more aggressive game, has won only eight titles.
Nadal’s 11 titlesinclude two titles at Indian Wells, one at Monte Carlo Masters, and one at Beijing (this year). In fact, he has won more masters tournaments in doubles than Stanislas Wawrinka — the latest member of the big five — has won masters in singles.
It would not be a bad idea for Nadal to continue to increase his participation in doubles as his singles’ career winds down. In fact, this would give doubles the necessary star power that it lacks currently, engage more spectators — specially Nadal’s fans — and open up the revenue stream in doubles which has been dwindling in popularity since John McEnroe — who was world №1 in both singles and doubles for a while — retired from the game, and singles became the primary, rather only, focus of the stars as the money and physicality in singles increased.
This would extend his tennis year by a few years, and motivate other stars as well to consider doubles as alternate career thereby improving its competitiveness and popularity.
While Nadal may not be the greatest player ever, he is the player involved in the most number of epic and entertaining matches, as his style of play brings forces his opponent to bring out his best. And there is no question that he will carry out the same in doubles.