Despite putting together a serious amount of tennis during the first part of 2017, Rafael Nadal who is ranked 5th in the world seems not in the zone yet. The Spaniard will turn 31 in June, and he is still struggling to get some momentum in his corner. So far, the current season meant a lot of energy deployed right on the tennis court having Nadal with 24 matches under his belt, 19 of them being wins. Even so, he is yet to win a title in 2017 despite featuring in 3 different ATP finals. Now, the clay court swing lies ahead, and the Spaniard is definitely amongst the favorites.

After all, his greatest successes came on this particular surface.

An extended clay swing could be a double-edged approach

Traditionally, over the past decade and even more, Rafael Nadal put his highest hopes on this clay swing. And the cost-benefit ratio worked in this favor in most cases. Still, the fairytale relationship consisting from Nadal and the clay court abruptly ended back in 2016 when he was forced to withdrew during the French Open due to a wrist injury. The same injury kept him away from his top form for the remaining season. This season, despite some inconsistencies, Nadal kept himself away from that dark side that injuries always tend to follow. Another side worth being taken into account is that the Spaniard already has played 24 encounters in 2017 having some extended series of play in Melbourne, Acapulco and most recently in Miami.

And those long and grueling runs might take their toll eventually. In 2016, he went for all ATP events on the European clay, winning back-to-back in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and pushing towards the final stages in Madrid and Rome. The exhaustion factor is not something to easily dismiss especially for a guy with a history of injury as Nadal unfortunately has.

Rafael Nadal and the Big Four dilemma

In men's tennis, the first months of 2017 were mostly about an apparently vintage era having Nadal and Federer competing in two finals, at the Australian Open and in Miami ended with Federer in front. Somehow unexpected, that changes the way the sun is spinning nowadays. With Federer off the chart except for the French Open, Nadal might want to take on the other two rivals Djokovic and Murray.

The last two ousted Nadal last year in Rome and Madrid questioning Spaniard's dominance on clay. Both being back from elbow injuries, the upcoming clay session could provide some epic battles. Given the number of points each of them has to defend, some permutations regarding the ranking are likely to happen.