Rafael Nadal made a strong start to the 2017 season after coming back from an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, which saw him prematurely end his season in October owing to a wrist injury.
The Spaniard has made the finals at three – Australian Open, Telcel Open and the Miami Masters - of the five tournaments he has played in 2017, but is yet to win a title. And, for most part, it is because of Roger Federer. Nadal lost to his long-time rival in Australia and Miami, while also losing to him in the fourth round at Indian Wells.
The Swiss ace is also coming back from a six-month injury absence and has made his best start to a season since 2006. He is currently on a 19-1 win-loss run, which include three titles – Australian Open, BNP Paribas Masters and most recently, the Miami Masters.
Nadal holds a 23-14 advantage in their head-to-head comparison, but Federer has won the last four meetings between the two, something he has done for the first time since their rivalry began 13 years ago. Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Serena Williams, believes it is because the 18-time Grand Slam champion's changed approach while playing the Spaniard.
The French coach believes the only way for Nadal to turn the tide before the end of the season is to win titles. Federer has pulled of the upcoming clay court tournaments at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome and Mouratoglou believes it is a good chance for the 14-time Grand Slam champion to pick up a few titles before French Open (22 May – 11 June) when both players will again be involved in the same tournament.
"Nadal needs to rebuild his confidence against Roger. And in order to do it, he needs to win titles. There is no reason to think that Nadal can't change the dynamic," Mouratoglou said, as quoted by tennisworldusa.org.
"Rafa is always Rafa. At the Roland Garros he can still have his advantage towards Federer and until that tournament he would have already won a few titles on clay. But that's not enough, if he won't correct the defects of this season, not only against Federer, but also against Djokovic and Murray," the Frenchman added.