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Rafael Nadal's knees showing wear and tear of his clay-court dominance

June 11, 2009 | 11:39 am

Nadal Rafael Nadal was the man of the moment just a few months ago, from Australia to Paris. It appeared as if the tennis gods had blessed him with everything he could ever want. 

But was everything so heavenly? In and out, back-to-back, he played on and on and on. Sometimes, he was masterfully striking. Sometimes, he made his body slog for his accomplishments.

He played, he won, he conquered.

And then came the clay season -- the time when Rafa turns master, his dominance of the surface so emphatic that he offers no leeway to any rival. Even the mighty Roger Federer couldn't stop him.

Rafa was invincible.

And this is where the dream started to flicker. The number of clay court tournaments Rafa packed into his schedule not even a recently turned pro could have managed to accommodate.

Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Madrid -- four tournaments as preparation for the "grand" Roland Garros.

It was unnecessary. His knees were still reeling from a lot of strain and there he was playing in all these tournaments, which meant two months of continuous, strenuous pressure, even though it was on his beloved surface.

As much as his knees were tortured, he tortured them even the more by winning three out of the four tournaments, finishing as a finalist in the fourth.

Who makes these decisions for him is unknown. But even common knowledge would tell you that playing four clay events for a person who is undoubtedly the best clay courter at the moment is blatantly foolish.

And what purpose did it serve? He lost in Paris and his overwrought knees have ended up getting inflamed again. His website quotes him as saying that he played most of the past months in complete agony and pain.

What was Rafa thinking?

-- Rohini Iyer

Photo: Rafael Nadal returns a ball to Robin Soderling during the French Open on May 31. Credit: Bertrand Guay / AFP / Getty Images

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