The tennis world will have to finally accept the Big Three era is coming to an end as Rafael Nadal’s most remarkable record on the precipice of ending.
It was April 25 2005 Nadal, who was 18 at the time, first broke into the top 10.
And despite injury lay-offs since then, he has never dipped below 10th in the world since.
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It is now at 908 consecutive weeks, 120 weeks more than the second ranked Jimmy Connors at 788 with Roger Federer in third at 734 weeks.
Only Martina Navratilova’s 1000 weeks in the WTA top 10 is ahead of Nadal.
But the first tournament Nadal will lose points if he can’t defend them will be the Mexican Open in Aculupco.
Nadal was set to play in Dubai, which is on at the same time as the Mexican tournament, but has withdrawn due to his hip injury from the Australian Open.
Nadal is currently World No. 6 in the rankings and will lose 500 points for not defending his Mexican crown.
That is unlikely to be enough to knock him out of the top 10 but if he also withdraws from Indian Wells, the first Masters 1000 tournament which starts on March 6, he will lose another 600 points, having lost the final to American Taylor Fritz last season.
Nadal himself revealed in January that he would be out for six to eight weeks after his second round upset in the Australian Open.
“Good afternoon. I have undergone medical tests after losing yesterday,” Nadal wrote in January. “The MRI shows a grade 2 injury in the iliopsoas muscle in my left leg. Now it’s time for sports rest and anti-inflammatory physiotherapy. Normal recovery time 6 to 8 weeks.”
Six weeks would take it to the week of Indian Wells, which is seen as the “fifth Grand Slam” and would not allow him to have any competitive matches.
While Nadal wouldn’t dip too far outside the top 10 if he suddenly lost 1100 points — he would be ranked 11th if he instantly lost the points right now — it’s potentially the end of an era for the Spanish champion.
At the Australian Open, Nadal vowed to return to the sport, having bristled at retirement questions throughout the lead up to the tournament.
“I went through this process (recovering from injury) too many times in my career, and I am ready to keep doing, I think, but that’s not easy, without a doubt,” Nadal said at Melbourne Park.
“In the end, I can’t complain about my life at all. Just in terms of sports and in terms of injuries and tough moments, that’s another one. I just can’t say that I am not destroyed mentally at this time, because I will be lying.”
It raises the question, how many times can he keep doing it?
At 36 with a wife and baby at home, the 22-time grand slam winner has achieved it all.
And Nadal won both the Australian Open and the French Open last year before injury saw him unable to play the Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.
Since then, Nadal hasn’t been himself, winning just one match from four before he was sidelined by the injury.
Perhaps the most telling issue which explains where Nadal currently is, he is the third favourite for the French Open, a tournament he has won 14 times.
Currently Novak Djokovic and compatriot Carlos Alcaraz are rated as better chances, although the clay court championship doesn’t start until May 28.
Around this time last year when Frenchman Lucas Pouille had sunk into a dark place and “stopped playing tennis” in his mind, he watched senior compatriot
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