Originally Posted by reaper
There are 2 differences between Nadal and other players who have come back from long term lay offs:
1) Nadal is an 11 time Grand Slam Champion at the age of 26
2) Despite being absent for 8 months Nadal will still be ranked number 5 when he comes back so will retain favourable draws through his seeding: He will likely be seeded top 4 at Wimbledon
Form is temporary: Class is permanent and by any measure Nadal would have to be ranked in the top 5 players of the past 30 years. If he retains his determination and desire his comeback will be successful.
First, John McEnroe was 27 and a 7 time Slam champion when he voluntarily left the game for 6 months, so this kind of absence for a player of Nadal's talent level is not unprecedented. As we all know, McEnroe's rivals overtook him and he was never the same player again after the break. Taking 8 months off will be detrimental for Nadal, especially since this was due to a reoccurring injury.
Speaking of the injury, I'll go back to the point I made earlier in this thread. When Muster's ACL and MCL ligaments were severed in the accident with the drunk driver, he trained his butt off to recover - hitting balls from a wheel chair, and doing painful therapy just weeks after surgery. He made it back on tour and was winning matches within 170 days (5.5 months), but it still took about a year to fully get back to where he left off. Muster was extremely driven and had a chip on his shoulder to show that his talent couldn't be stolen by an accident.
From Nadal's actions so far, I don't see that same "determination and desire" that you spoke of in his comeback. His knee injury is a lot less severe than Muster's, yet Nadal is not tackling the recovery with the same passion. 184+ days is more than enough time for him to recover and train from the issue he supposedly has, and even a temporary stomach bug shouldn't have been enough to knock him out for an additional 2 months if he was really motivated.
Winning the French was a big deal for Nadal last year (setting the record and becoming the clay GOAT), and I don't think he has anything left to prove. I think he's burned out, and won't be able to get the mojo back to dominate like he used to. Besides, his rivals (Djokovic and Murray, primarily) have gotten better, Federer is still hanging around, and there will be additional champs (Tsonga and Berdych, anyone?) nipping at his heels when he gets back on the court. Nobody is going to feel sorry for Nadal when he returns, and they will all be gunning for him while he's down, with their own chances to make history.
If anyone is doubting that this is a mental break for Nadal more than an injury issue, pictures speak louder than words...
Muster, less than two months after his catastrophic knee injury:
Nadal, less than two weeks
(seriously, on July 8th of this year!) after his knee "injury":
Quite the contrast...
And finally, Nadal's ranking is in serious jeopardy. By missing the Australian and Doha, he'll drop to 5400 points which would put him at #5 right now. However, Berdych, Del Potro, and Tsonga could all pass him by March if they perform well. Then, Nadal has semifinal points at both Indian Wells and Miami to defend (720 total), not to mention 4,090 points to retain in the clay season. If he doesn't come back winning right away (which I think he won't), he could possibly be outside the top 10 by Wimbledon. This is going to be an uphill struggle all the way.