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Now Rafa’s really back – and we can look forward to the greatest Wimbledon of them all!

Locker Room

March 18, 2013

Wow! The way Rafa Nadal stormed back at Indian Wells to bring Juan Martin del Potro to his knees was truly amazing.

The fighting spirit, the irresistible force, the stunning passes down the line…if only we could have had more than three sets!

What we tennis fans hardly dared to wish for has come true, even before the  Spaniard reaches European clay. After seven months of uncertainty, Rafa is well and truly back with a bang!
‘It was one of the most emotional wins of my career,’ Nadal admitted afterwards. His wild celebrations had already proved it.

And in those moments you realised what dark moments Nadal must have been through, fearing he might never perform at the highest level again. He has done that now.

Previous wins in Brazil and Mexico were encouraging enough. But even Nadal admitted he still didn’t feel one hundred per cent. Indian Wells was different. We have just seen the ‘Rafa of old’, emerging to stop powerhouse Del Potro in his tracks, despite an awesome show of force from the South American in the first set.

It was Rafa’s twenty-second Masters 1000 title, surpassing even the imperious Federer. Rafa has reclaimed the number four world ranking with that dramatic win, moving past David Ferrer. He won’t stop there, we all know that.

It means the golden era of men’s tennis, is back to full strength. We have the Big Four to cherish again. They should all be doing battle at Wimbledon again this year. It feels too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I think we should all take a moment to consider what Rafa Nadal’s completed comeback means. Quite simply, if Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal are fit in June, this should prove to be the greatest Wimbledon championships of all time.

Sounds like hyperbole and outrageous spin, doesn’t it? But this unique moment in tennis history is something truly special, never to be repeated, I suspect.

This will be the last year Federer will do meaningful battle among the giants, due to his age. But his six-week break to rest his aching back should work to Wimbledon’s advantage. He’ll be desperate to win again.

This will be the first year Murray returns as a Grand Slam (and Olympic) winner, ready to ooze confidence and star quality like never before.

Then we have Novak Djokovic, the superman still taking the sport to new levels of athleticism and brutality.

Just when it seemed we had everything, what happens? Rafa makes a miraculous recovery – ahead of schedule – and blows us all away in the American desert.

Does anyone else feel just a little bit spoilt?

Wimbledon has never been anticipated with a greater sense of excitement.

Mark Ryan (Part of the Mail on Sunday’s Wimbledon reporting team)

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