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Nadal rested and ready to rumble again at SW19

Rafael Nadal practises at Aorangi Park.
by Dan Imhoff
Thursday 21 June 2012

Putting the feet up to relax under uninterrupted sun on Mallorca is a welcome distraction for anyone keen to place the pressures of the daily grind briefly on hold.

In Rafael Nadal’s case, with not a grass court in sight, it may provide the necessary spark to put a surprise loss at Halle behind him and continue where he left off at Roland Garros when The Championships begin at SW19 on Monday.

The fleeting visit to wind down with family and friends at home followed his straight-sets defeat to Philipp Kohlschreiber on grass in Germany, where Nadal cited the need to rest rather than get straight back to the practice courts after a hugely successful clay court swing.

A record seventh French Open crown nearly a fortnight ago and title runs in Monte Carlo and Rome in the lead-up, where he defeated world No.1 Novak Djokovic in each, marked the first time in his career he had beaten the Serb in three consecutive finals.

A switch to contrasting surfaces aside, the momentum between the sport’s top two has swayed back towards Nadal and the Spaniard has regained the ascendancy in the race to be king pin of the sport, which Djokovic has ruled for the best part of 18 months.

Short on match-play coming into The Championships, Nadal is unperturbed about losing to a player he hadn’t fallen to in eight previous outings.

“I have played the week after the French Open for eight years with the exception of 2009 when I was injured,” he said of the decision to play a grass court lead-up tournament immediately after his Roland Garros success.

“It has always worked out fantastically for me. Even if I lost, the two matches and the practice I have had here have helped me a lot. I hope to be back again next year.

“On the grass courts, if you are not full of confidence, then all matches are a lottery, particularly over three sets.”

Djokovic will rightly start as favourite to defend his Wimbledon crown. How he will respond after losing the French Open final, where he fell one match shy of holding all four majors at once and saw hopes vanish of completing a Golden Grand Slam (all four majors and Olympic gold in the same year) remains to be seen.

This year’s Championships carry the added intrigue of the top three all being in the hunt to finish the slam as the world’s top-ranked player. If Federer needed any added motivation to return to the Grand Slam winners’ circle, this would be it.

A dual Wimbledon Champion and three-times runner-up, Nadal would favour his chances of reaching a sixth final at The All England Club should he draw home hope Andy Murray in his half.

Nadal holds an imposing 13-5 head-to-head against the Scot, including all three matches on grass, and has defeated Murray on the way to his two previous titles at the All England Club.

Should he draw third seed Federer and then top seeded Djokovic however, the task at hand becomes all the more difficult. Nadal is 2-1 on grass against Djokovic and 1-2 against Federer.

He is yet to successfully fend off the challenges of both players in the same Championships though. The closest he came was five years ago where after being gifted an easy passage past an injured Djokovic in the semi-finals, he fell in a five-set thriller to Federer in the title match.

Having just spoiled Djokovic’s chances of a Golden Grand Slam, Nadal would happily go one further by wresting the golden Challenge Cup from his grasp in a fortnight's time.

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