Rafael Nadal expresses cautious optimism heading into Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal celebrates after scoring a point against Stan Wawrinka in the 2017 French Open finals. Nadal went on to win the match for his tenth Roland Garros title. (Getty Images)

On Sunday, Rafael Nadal clung to the silver trophy awarded to the champion of the French Open, and tears welled up in his eyes. Emotions overwhelmed Nadal as he soaked up the glory of his tenth French Open victory. He had won another Grand Slam title. He had achieved greatness. He had made history.

But then that moment, like all moments, passed by just as fast as it had arrived. Questions about the future started to face the Spanish champion almost immediately.

Can Nadal rule Wimbledon again?” “Who will win Wimbledon in 2017?” “Are Nadal and Federer poised to dominate the majors in 2017?

Nadal, who captured the 15th Grand Slam title of his career, now holds the No. 2 ranking in the world, but as he transitions into his preparation for Wimbledon, the question of whether the “King of Clay” can repeat his success on grass remains. In 2008 and 2010, Nadal won Wimbledon and the French Open, and, after his win on clay in France this year, the questions are only natural.

Nadal, meanwhile, is hopeful but not overly confident. The Spaniard said he’s “excited” about Wimbledon and “likes playing on grass,” but he worries about the stability of his knee and his fitness after French Open play.

“We’ll see how my knee behaves. Playing on grass is very special. You need to play at a lower level. The body posture is down. You have less stability on grass,” Nadal said. “But keep in mind I played five finals in Wimbledon. I like playing on grass. On grass, anything can happen. I’m motivated.”

Toni Nadal, Nadal’s coach and uncle, echoed the same sentiments.

“When Rafael is good with his knees, he can play well on the grass,” Toni said.

When Nadal was asked if he doubted he would ever reach this level again after his three-year Grand Slam title drought, Nadal was honest and reflective.

“I have doubts every day. The doubts, I think, are good, because the doubts give you the possibility to work with more intensity, with being more humble, and accepting that you need to keep working hard to improve things,” Nadal said. “So for sure, I have doubts. During that three years, I had doubts. Right now, I’m going to have doubts even in a few days, because in tennis, every week is a new story.”

And Nadal’s new story begins now. The ten-time French Open winner has a chance for another title in just three weeks, and while he may still have doubts, the tennis community has expectations of another success story.