LONDON – A year ago here, the tennis world pondered the demise of Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard hadn’t won a major title since 2014. He had just turned 30. He had lost in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open. At the French Open—his clay playground—he had withdrawn with a wrist injury. All that physical tennis was finally exacting its price, it seemed.
Well, here we are a year later and Nadal is doing a convincing impersonation of a top player at the peak of his power. He won his 29th consecutive set in Grand Slam play on Friday, beating Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-1, 6-4, 7-6. Nadal is moving well, zinging his shots, hitting his second serve over 100 miles an hour.
Suddenly, everything is turning up Rafa. If he makes the final, he can surpass Andy Murray as World No. 1. But first—Gilles Muller, the hard-serving Luxembourgian, in the fourth round. (Though if we’re being honest: which Luxembourgians don’t serve hard?)