Rafael Nadal announced today that he was going to be out for at least another few months, effectively ending his 2012 season. The reason given was that he was still healing from a partial tear of his patellar tendon, which was a new bit of information for fans. The previous diagnosis had been patellar tendonitis which has been a chronic concern for him. This is the second season (the first was in 2009) that Nadal has missed significant time to these knee issues.
He hasn't played a competitive match since his second round loss on June 28 at Wimbledon. If he indeed misses the rest of the season, that will make it a minimum of seven months between competitive matches for him. It's not just a time for rest and healing for Nadal. With this much time off, it can also be an opportunity to retool his game. If there was anything that he wanted to work on extensively or change about his game, he will have that chance now to completely focus on doing just that.
One of the things I'd like to see him do is lean himself out more physically. If you believe the listed height/weight measurements on the ATP website, Nadal is 6'1" and 188 pounds. Compare that a guy like Federer who is listed at 6'1" and 187 pounds but who has never looked as heavy as Nadal and who looks much leaner this summer as compared to the past few years. I wouldn't be surprised if Federer is down closer to 175. Novak Djokovic is 6'2" and just 176 pounds and really looks it. Think of when these guys change their shirts in mid-match or afterwards. Nadal has always appeared more muscular than either of the other guys. Djokovic, especially, got much leaner right when he started to improve his game. His power seemed to remain the same but his endurance got even better.
Nadal's physicality in his game involves a lot of running back and forth on the baseline with a lot of sliding. Imagine if he lost even five pounds off of what he normally weighs and how much of a difference that could make in his game. Personally, I think Nadal could probably drop 10 pounds and not lose much in the way of power. Think of the increase in mobility and speed that he could potentially achieve? More importantly, think of the potential long-term positive impact on his knees? It's said that one pound of weight loss takes four pounds of stress off of the knees of overweight people. Nadal is certainly not overweight, but why couldn't a reduced amount of load on those knees help him long-term as well as his game when he returns? I believe that's a change that he should make while he has the chance right now.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She misses having Nadal on the court to provide another tough competitor for the rest of the Big Four.