Nadal’s fate loop: New year, same story

Nadal’s fate loop: New year, same story

For tennis players, as for everyone in reality, the turn of the year marks a transition that is basically fictitious because the calendar overlaps more and more from one season to the next, so that what stretches from one course often leads to the other . From March to September 2022, Rafael Nadal suffered a torn rib at Indian Wells, suffered from left foot pain in Rome – including during Roland Garros, a tournament won by an intruder from start to finish – and received double treatment to endure the pain; then he tore his stomach at Wimbledon in July, and the same muscle group tore again at the US Open in September. He reappeared two months later and from then on could only play four games by the end of the year, losing tone, sharpness and routine.

In between joy of fatherhood, the gradual return to calm and, after overcoming all the potholes, the fate of his career, a return to the top in Australia. New energy, new spirits and the goal of remaining on the track for as long as possible are always denied to him. As a result, he says, “the glass fills up and at some point the water can come out,” but says he’ll keep trying. After just a few tries in Adelaide and a game and a half in Melbourne, already out of the first Major by losing to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, his physique is captivating him again. Now it’s time to identify the hip for lack of a definitive diagnosis, and the red light will come on if the first three weeks of this year 2023 have not even elapsed.

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In other words, a new year, but the same story for him who, at 37, wants above all to play and compete, but finds no rest. His body, this scaffolding that, just as it drove him, has betrayed him too many times, excessive penalties he accumulates, he just didn’t let it and sows more questions in this momentous year. After Nadal seriously considered retirement in the spring and found medical solace for his foot at least so far, Nadal will approach the coming months as a final test to make a decision. His desire is to continue playing, as he expresses and emphasizes, but as long as he can enjoy the routine of the circuit normally and not in gulps.

There are too many days on the reservation and the sofa. The mind, as armored as he is, is tearing some cracks that he is trying to mend with the belief that he will eventually achieve the long-awaited continuity of feeling like a tennis player and living the Circuit. He couldn’t do it in 2021, seven tournaments were played; still in 2022, in which the counter remained at 12. With seniority, he started talking about dosing, but the reality is that Nadal hasn’t been picking for a while now, his body is dictating and deciding directly for him. The chassis commands, not the will. Since giving up the fight with Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon semifinals, the Spaniard has recorded fewer wins (5) than losses (8) and lost more (3) than won in the opening stage (1, the premiere ahead of Britain’s Jack drapers).

Nadal is treated on the side during the game.Nadal is treated on the side throughout the game. DIEGO FEDELE (EFE)

“I’m tired, sad and disappointed,” he replies to EL PAÍS’ question. “But I want to keep playing tennis and I don’t want to take a step back even if I feel bad,” continues the man from Manacor, who was penalized for losing to McDonald; from second to sixth on the list if not overtaken by another player when the Open ends and the list is updated. “It’s very difficult to get in shape when you’re on breaks all the time. I have to prevent long off-track times. I’ve gone almost seven months without playing and can’t be away much longer. It would be difficult to find the rhythm and be competitive again,” laments the 22-time champion, whose record is now threatened by Serbian Novak Djokovic, who grew fangs after learning of the unexpected defeat of his great historical nemesis.

It is the whiting that bites its tail: without linearity there is no spark, the game suffers and victory is resisted. The training courses help as a basis, but are not enough. Until he felt the stab in his side, Nadal tried without much luck to contain McDonald’s flat hitters, also injured by his gaps in service. The 27-year-old American, 65th in the world, who managed to scratch him just four games in the only precedent between the two, at Roland Garros in 2020, seized the initiative and raised a full-fledged ordeal, conditioned in the end by injury. Every time something like this happens, victory is marked with an asterisk, but this time the course of the duel gave the feeling that if the American had continued, he would have made stronger arguments for victory.

cracks in the game

“He was undoubtedly in a more advantageous position than me, but there was still a lot of play left. I think I got closer and understood the things I had to do to reverse the situation. We can talk about it and think about what if … But I don’t like that assumption so much,” affirmed the tennis player, who in his most recent appearances – both the last ones of the previous year and the three of this year – affirmed – has managed to fight as equals, but has not yet finished finding the solutions in some key moments. Yes, he did it against Ruud in November and against Draper in the debut, not against Fritz, Auger-Aliassime, Norrie and De Miñaur in the rest of the commitments. This means that a lack of confidence will noticeably undermine their game.

Nadal says goodbye to the Melbourne grandstand.Nadal bids farewell to the stands in Melbourne LOREN ELLIOTT (Portal)

“I had to spend days at the track and those three weeks have been positive. At least I was able to recover a lot of things at the level of mobility and competitiveness, “he emphasized from that intermediate line that he has always bet on, neither very low when they come badly, nor euphoric when he signed big hits.

In any case, Nadal knows he has no more time to lose because the middle class of the circuit has been gaining ground and the youngsters are, well, pushing hard. It’s a matter of physique and mind, yes, but also of tennis. Forced to compete in Bercy, Turin, Adelaide and Melbourne his performance has improved but the level shown on his return is far from his best. Add to that the fact that he’s encountered high-profile opponents, some consolidated, others bubbly and others emerging. It now remains to be seen how big this latest loss is and whether it can complete the plans he and his team had outlined: Doha (from February 20th to 26th), Dubai (from March 27th to 4th). ), an exhibition in Las Vegas with Carlos Alcaraz (Day 5)… Everything stays in the air at the expense of his body.

Out of breath, the Spaniard needs to find a straight line without mines, some rest. In any case, Marge is granted, he hasn’t lost his appetite despite the lashes he has received and he sends a message: “I will continue to fight and will not give up anything. It’s the beginning of the year.”

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