No Repeat of 2009 in 2013
There should be no question mark in the title as Nadal has announced he won’t be playing. Still, at least two major questions are raised by this announcement.
- If this is simply a matter of illness and not practicing, why announce on December 28 when the Australian Open does not start for 2 more weeks?
- Where does this leave Nadal going forward?
1. I am not a physician. I must think that a 26 year old athlete could mend from a stomach virus and play his way into form during the first week of the event. The Australian Open provides days off between rounds. If Nadal could recover and practice some over the next two weeks and grind through 2 matches, he’d have almost 3 weeks before facing a seeded opponent. Rafa won the Australian Open in 2009 and was runner-up in 2012. This is an event he should be playing unless he simply can’t.
I have to think the virus is only part of the thought process by Nadal. 3 out of 5 sets on slowish hard courts in Australian heat might be the wrong way to test out his knees. Given that Rafa is playing the Latin American clay court circuit, I think we may see fewer and fewer hard court events from him in the future. Only he knows how bad his knees are. Maybe they are recovered, but he feels like another issue like he had in 2012 will spell the end of his career.
2. I am not breaking any news here when I say that Nadal will make every effort to win the 2013 French Open. I just think missing 2 consecutive Grand Slam events, the Olympic games and the World Tour Finals means that Nadal and his team are quite concerned about his career. Nadal is super fit, fast, strong and determined. He projects a toughness on court few have ever approached. In contrast to his image, stands the reality of Nadal missing big events. Consider that:
- Nadal Missed the 2004 French Open with a Stress Fracture
- Nadal Missed the 2005 World Tour Finals with a Stress Fracture
- Nadal Missed the 2006 Australian Open with a Stress Fracture
- Nadal Missed the 2008 World Tour Finals
- Nadal Missed the 2009 Wimbledon Championships with Tendinitis of the Knee
- Nadal Missed the 2012 Olympic Games, US Open and World Tour Finals with Knee Problems
- Nadal Will Miss the 2013 Australian Open as the Result of a Stomach Virus
Rafael Nadal is a freakish athlete when healthy. Maintaining his health has not been easy throughout his career. He is only 26, but he has had serious injuries since 2004 and has been a top 5 player since 2005. Nadal is an old 26 by the tour’s standards. He has not had the down periods that helped Andre Agassi recharge from time to time. He has not been blasting aces and playing short points a la Pete Sampras. He has played 8 years in the top tier of the sport by grinding out long points through hustle and concentration. I hope he can continue. No one should second guess his approach to tennis as he has 11 major titles and a gold medal to his name. The only thing I can say is that the most consistent player in tennis is at a spot where predicting his future results is impossible.