Rafael Nadal Nearly Forfeits?
On the same day that news breaks that Rafael Nadal expressed disdain for Roger Federer’s approach to dealing with the ATP on scheduling issues, Nadal also maintains that he nearly forfeited his first round Australian Open match due to knee issues. Earlier this week Nadal said that he was finally healthy and that this health rekindled his love of tennis. This quick change might be plausible if it were not for Nadal nearly defaulting at Wimbledon last year against Juan Martin del Potro and leaving Mardy Fish, his quarterfinal opponent, wondering if he had punched his ticket to the semifinal round of tennis’ most prestigious event. Both Fish and del Potro expressed questions about Nadal’s injuries during and after their matches.
On Day 1 of the Australian Open, Nadal won 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 on one bad wheel. With a good knee, he probably wins 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. This melodrama is not serving Nadal or tennis well. Every week casual sports fans who wonder over to the tennis tab of various websites are treated to a deluge of stories about players pulling out of tournaments due to injuries. If every other major event has Nadal contemplating pulling out of the tournment and then proceeding to thrash his opponent, it looks like Rafa is playing mind games. Maybe he genuinely doesn’t feel good, but his macho image would be better served with a little stoicism.
Legendary Aussie Harry Hopman helped shape Jim Courier’s game and played a role in John McEnroe’s development as well. Hopman, among others, is credited for variations of this maxim, “If you are injured, you don’t play. If you play, you’re not injured.” Throw in Ken Rosewall being nicknamed “muscles”, and Nadal could perhaps look to the Aussies for how to approach his nagging and new injuries.
I love Nadal’s heart and effort. He has been in the spotlight since 2005 or maybe even the Davis Cup final of 2004. Nadal has won a lot of fans for himself and for tennis. Still, constant injury chatter undermines his ‘Raging Bull’ persona. Nadal plays tennis on the court like a man who would crawl across broken glass to win. If he adopted that demeanor for the off court topic of injuries, Nadal would likely win more fans for himself and for tennis.