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Ace in the hole

It's easy to appreciate Rafa in action, and even easier when he's sidelined

Originally Published: January 23, 2013
By Howard Bryant | ESPN The Magazine

THERE WAS SOMETHING missing. As the Australian Open entered its second week, otherwise known as go time for the players believing they can win a major, Rafael Nadal's absence was conspicuous. It was felt. For the past eight years, go time has always included Nadal, but he hasn't been seen on a tennis court since Wimbledon due to injuries and ailments. The hardcourts of Melbourne were never his best surface, of course; the 26-year-old has claimed just one of his 11 grand slam ...

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