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Martin Rogers

The Monday Slice: Nadal back in action

Busted Racquet

The phenomenon known as Rafael Nadal bursts back into action this week at the ABN AMRO World Tennis event in Rotterdam.

Following his stunning triumph in the final of the Australian Open, where the Spaniard ground down Roger Federer over five sets, he cemented his position as clearly the best player in the world.

Now that argument is out of the way, Nadal is being mentioned in another debate - about where he ranks among the world's greatest athletes.

The 22-year-old's incredible feat of stamina in surviving a five-set epic with Fernando Verdasco in the semifinal Down Under, then backing it up less than two days later against Federer, showed remarkable physical resilience.

Nadal's ability to chase down seemingly impossible shots to keep himself in rallies is second to none and it can be argued there are few greater athletes on the planet just now.

With the arm strength of a heavyweight boxer, the endurance of a long-distance runner and a technique that appears incapable of being broken down, Nadal deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as elite world sportsmen such as Usain Bolt, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods.

To hold three of the four Grand Slam titles simultaneously, as well as an Olympic medal, is an achievement that would not be possible on skill alone.

Federer's reliance on his perfectly-honed game has proven to be a mistake. Men's tennis in the modern era puts physical capacity at a premium, and Nadal is the current king of the jungle.

Last week's winners:

Movistar Open, Vina Del Mar: Fernando Gonzalez
PBZ Indoors, Zagreb: Marin Cilic
SA Tennis Open, Johannesburg: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

This week's predictions:

SAP Open, San Jose: Juan Martin Del Potro
Brazil Open, Costa Do Sauipe: Jose Acasuso
ABN AMRO World Tennis, Rotterdam: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Pattaya Open: Vera Zvonareva
Open GDF Suez: Elena Dementieva

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