Rafael Nadal, 31, capped a tremendous season by reclaiming the year's end No.1 position. Two Grand Slam titles were also part of a phenomenal year.

Rafael Nadal is expected to extend his dominance in 2018. But the task lying ahead might not be that easy given the number of obstacles he must walk through. The stage will be repopulated with all those ATP stars that went away for the most part of 2017. That means names like Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka or Raonic will hit the action field again.

When it comes to his schedule, Rafael Nadal seemed to have not a single trace of hesitation by committing to as many tournaments as possible.

Therefore, 2017 season saw his name popping up in a variety of ATP events from all over the world. In the end, that strategy took its toll with Nadal suffering from knee issues toward the end of the season during the indoor hard session.

First bid on hard and the clay court swing

Things might look a bit different for 2018. The Spaniard is expected to resume playing at Brisbane, Australia. Then, he will head to the Australian Open in Melbourne to defend the 2017 final that he lost to Federer. After that, Indian Wells and Miami should be enough for the first part of the season.

Once the first chapter on the hard court ends, he will focus on the Clay Court session. Widely regarded as the best clay court player in history, the so-called King of Clay will roam across the European dirt courts to impose his own will.

The intriguing part is how committed Nadal is to this surface. Usually, he goes all in playing a full schedule during this time of year. He is expected to play Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome and then to bid for an eleventh crown at the French Open.

The second part of the year is way too far to predict

Unless an unfortunate event occurs, Rafael Nadal will remain a factor during the second part of the year too.

That will mostly depend on how hard the opposition fights back during the clay season. In 2017, Nadal basically cruised through that part of the calendar. With Federer not playing and Murray and Djokovic down due to various issues, Nadal had an easy task in dominating the men’s tennis.

Looking further than the clay court swing is a wild guess.

If Nadal uses too many resources, that lack of stamina will cost him a heavy price. Moreover, he will have to consider a shortened schedule too. After all, he is not getting any younger and the longevity debate will play a significant part in any of his future plans.