End-of-season reports 2012: Rafael Nadal

End-of-season reports 2012: Rafael Nadal
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Sports Mole looks back over an injury-ravaged year for 11-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.

Tennis suffered a massive loss in the second half of the season when Rafael Nadal announced that he would not be competing at the remaining tournaments because of his troublesome knees.

While his absence still left Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to battle it out for the major honours, the sport was certainly worse off without the presence of the powerful Spaniard.

However, despite playing his last match of the year in July, the 26-year-old still managed to win one Grand Slam title and get to the final of another.

His campaign started like so many in Qatar. Having recorded victories over Philipp Kohlschreiber and qualifier Denis Gremelmayr, it looked as if Nadal was going to collect his first title of the year. Gael Monfils had other ideas in the semi-finals though and knocked out Rafa in two sets.

January's Australian Open followed that competition, with Nadal overcoming his rival Federer to set up a final with Djokovic.

The duo went on to prove why they are regarded by many to be the best two players in the world by producing a match that lasted five hours and 53 minutes - a world record for a Slam final. Ultimately it was Djokovic who was left celebrating, winning through in an epic five-set encounter.

The first sign that his knees were going to hamper his progress arrived in Miami when he was forced to withdraw from the Miami Open at the semi-final stage with a niggle.

Nadal returned in time for his favourite clay-court period and backed up his tag as a specialist by winning titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona with victories over Djokovic and his countryman David Ferrer respectively.

Just before the French Open he recorded another victory over Djokovic in Rome and he went on to beat the same player 6–4 6–3 2–6 7–5 in the final at Roland Garros - his seventh triumph in Paris.

As tennis entered into grass territory, Nadal's knees began to cause him major problems. First of all he was defeated in the quarter-finals at Halle by Kohlschreiber.

There was an even bigger shock to come at Wimbledon though. In the second round at SW19, Nadal met Lukas Rosol, who was ranked 100 in the world at the time. What transpired was not the anticipated routine win for Nadal but a 7–6 (9), 4–6, 4–6, 6–2, 4–6 success for the Czech Republic's Rosol. The match is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Grand Slam history.

And that was the last that the watching world saw of Nadal on the tennis courts in 2012.

He withdrew from the Olympic Games in London and the US Open in New York - both tournaments that he would have been challenging to win had he have been fully fit.

Reports suggest that he will be fit to compete at next year's Australian Open. It may take him a little while to regain his rhythm, but the whole tennis world is just eager to see him back in action.

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