Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash believes Rafael Nadal will no longer be able to play a complete season of tennis for the rest of his career.
The Aussie legend, who himself was hampered by numerous injuries throughout his career, does not see a complete 10 months of continuous action in Nadal’s future, citing the world No3’s physical game as the main reason behind his susceptibility to injuries.
The Spaniard returned from a nine-week layoff, where he was nursing a right wrist injury, at the Beijing Open earlier this month. But he unluckily came down with appendicitis in Shanghai last week, where he fell in his opening match to compatriot Feliciano Lopez.
Nadal has had a long history of injury troubles that have plagued his career since he was a teenager and his last injury-free year was in 2011 where he played in all four grand slams. The 28-year-old missed the 2006 Australian Open with a foot injury, skipped Wimbledon in 2009 with knee fatigue, couldn’t play the 2012 US Open with more knee problems and had to forgo the tournament again this year with his wrist issue.
“Rafael Nadal, I don’t think will play a full season for the rest of his life. It’s just very, very tough. For certain players, it’s more emotional, it’s more physical,” Cash told Sport360º at the launch of the 2015 Mubadala World Tennis Championship, of which he is an ambassador.
Australian teen Nick Kyrgios, who shocked Nadal at Wimbledon this year, ended his season early citing burnout while compatriot Ashleigh Barty has taken an indefinite break from the sport.
“Kyrgios is quite an emotional kid, when he plays you can see how passionate he is, he felt like he needs some time off,” explained Cash. “I think people are underestimating how tough it is on the circuit.
“You’ve got guys like Stan Wawrinka who just had a meltdown the last three or four weeks – he can’t win games or sets in matches and it’s just not easy to go through a whole year.
“As a young player I remember really being fed up with tennis and exhausted. So if you need time off to refresh or you’re not enjoying it, you have to go and do that.”
But not everyone is struggling at the back end of the season. Roger Federer has been thriving and after wrapping up his fifth title of the season in Shanghai, the Swiss is closing in on world No1 Novak Djokovic in the rankings.
Asked whether he sees Federer returning to the top spot by year-end, Cash said: “The way he’s playing, and I’ve said this for a while, if Roger Federer stays fit, anything’s possible. There’s very few men players who have not won a grand slam but become No1. I think Marcelo Rios is one… Scratching my head to think of another one who became No1 without winning a grand slam that year.
“It just goes to show how well he’s done in the other events. Indoors he is one of, if not, the best indoor players I’ve ever seen in my life, he’s just incredible. So there’s an absolute chance he can become No1. It’ll be exciting.”
Another player who has impressed Cash this season is Marin Cilic, who was a surprise champion at the US Open last month, where he won his last 10 sets to take the title. Cilic, Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro are the only three players outside the Big Four to have captured a major title in the last nine years.
Asked which of the trio he predicts would win his second slam, the 1987 Wimbledon champion added: “The way Cilic played, that was the most convincing win in a grand slam this year, other than Serena winning the US Open.
“Just phenomenal tennis. If he plays like that I see no reason why he couldn’t win again.”