Nadal coming to terms with rankings slide

Sun May 3, 2015 2:26pm EDT
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By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA (Reuters) - This is normally the time of year when Rafa Nadal comes into his own, honing his formidable claycourt skills in preparation for Roland Garros and leaving a trail of brutalized opponents to pick themselves up off the red clay.

Yet things have not gone to plan this season. While last year's injury woes seem to have passed, their legacy is a lack of form and a drop in confidence that have left him struggling for results.

Since hitting the big time in 2005, when he won the first of his record nine French Open titles, Nadal has never entered the fifth month of a season with only one solitary title -- that too a low key tournament in Buenos Aires where the highest ranked opponent he faced was world number 59 Federico Delbonis.

The Spaniard, who also owns eight Monte Carlo and eight Barcelona Open trophies, is now preparing to play at the Madrid Open in front of his home fans on the back of his worst run of results.

Desperately hoping to pick up form ahead of the French Open later this month, he is facing up to the fact that his ranking is on the slide.

He has not finished the season outside the top five in more than 10 years, but is now number four and heading in the wrong direction.

“We will see how far I have fallen after Roland Garros,” Nadal told reporters in Madrid.

“This is part of sport. Other times I have been able to maintain a high ranking because I have returned quickly but this has not been the case now.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain attends a training session at the Monte Carlo Masters in Monaco April 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Eric Gaillard