Rafael Nadal makes his return
For the first time since 2005 Rafael Nadal has fallen out of the top four players in the world.
The Spaniard has slipped to No. 5 since he was sidelined with knee tendinitis after losing to 100th-ranked player Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon this past June. As a result, he was unable to defend all the points he earned last year by making the final, allowing compatriot David Ferrer to pass him. Ferrer became the No. 4 player for the first time since September 2005.
Nadal's injury prevented him from defending his Olympic singles gold at the London games, where he was supposed to be Spain's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. He also pulled out of the U.S. Open and Spain's Davis Cup match against the Czech Republic. He was set to return at the Australian Open but withdrew after contracting a stomach virus in December that derailed his training schedule.
Nadal has always been counted on to put on a show in Australia, with his precise adjustment steps that create impossible angles and his showstopping charisma. His unique, artful game is important to the tennis world and was missed not only by the fans, but also his rivals.
Reasons Nadal matters in the top four:
He is the only athlete with a winning record against each of the other top players.
When Roger Federer threatened to overrun tennis the way Michael Jordan did with basketball, Nadal provided rivalry and rebalanced the game.
Best career match record on clay in the Open Era with 254-19 and 36-4 in finals; he has only lost to Federer and Djokovic (twice each).
It has been eight years since former No. 1 Nadal, played in an ATP World Tour tournament in South America, where he is scheduled to return to tour next week. Competing in singles and doubles at the Vina del Mar Open in Chile, then the Brazil Open, and lastly, the Mexico Open. These will be the three clay-court events for the Spaniard before he heads to North America hard courts.
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