Rafael Nadal will resume his bittersweet relationship with Wimbledon buoyed by his record-breaking French Open but wary of the traps which have ensnared him at the All England Club.
The 31-year-old Spaniard routed Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros on Sunday 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to become the first man in history to win the same major 10 times.
That took him to 15 Grand Slam titles, one ahead of Pete Sampras and just three behind the 18 of old rival Roger Federer.
Next up on the Slam list in three weeks’ time is Wimbledon where Nadal was champion in 2008 and 2010 and runner-up in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
However, his last four visits have all ended with defeats to opponents outside the top 100.
“It’s a while since I didn’t play a very good Wimbledon. It’s true that after 2012 what happened with
my knees has made it tougher and tougher to compete on grass. That’s the reality,” said Nadal.
Injury forced him to skip Wimbledon in 2009 and 2016 while the years 2012-2015 saw him lose to Lukas Rosol (world ranked 100), Steve Darcis (135), Nick Kyrgios (144) and Dustin Brown (102).
In that spell, a fourth round run in 2014 was his best effort.
Nadal admits that if he suffers a new problem with his knees on the Wimbledon grass, where the lower bounce of the ball piles more pressure on the legs and joints, then his visit to London may again be short-lived.
“I love grass, everybody knows, and it’s a surface that I really enjoyed a lot playing on. And I missed playing at Wimbledon,” said Nadal.
“So I hope that my knees hold well and I can have the preparation that I really need and the preparation that I want.”
“So if that happens, why not? If I have pain in the knees, then I know from experience that it’s almost impossible. Because I need to feel strong and have low, powerful legs to play well in Wimbledon.”