By Lisa-Marie Burrows
It was announced on Wednesday that Spanish No.1 and 11-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, is still injured and will not be playing at the US Open, which does not come as a great surprise. There has been so much speculation, guessing and assumptions which have all been made during the last few weeks about the state of Rafael Nadal’s health and finally the truth is out there – he is not going to be playing at the US Open in New York. I am relieved that the news has finally been announced after hearing rumour after rumour, tale after tale and gossip after gossip. No doubt for Nadal himself, now that the news has been aired after being subjected to constant scrutiny by the media, the Spanish No.1, his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, and his publicist Benito Barbadillo can finally get on with his rehabilitation in peace – hopefully.
Silencing his cynics
In withdrawing from the London 2012 Olympic Games and the US Open, Nadal has silenced his cynics after many questioned the severity of his injury – and some even implied that it was due to his shock early exit in the second round at the hands of Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon being the main cause for him not playing at the Games. Many expected him to play at the two hard court Masters Series events in Toronto and Cincinnati but he also withdrew from those tournaments. Even world No.1, Roger Federer, confessed that he was surprised by his withdrawal and believed that he would have returned for those events.
After being selected as the flag bearer for his beloved home country, Spain, at the Olympic Games where he was set to defend his gold medal which he won in Beijing in 2008, how could his passion and pride for his sport and professional integrity be questioned? For him to elect not to play due to his physical conditioning, it was clear that something was not right and it was something that could not be fixed so easily as he has always taken great pride in playing for his country and what bigger platform is there than at the Olympic Games?
The return of Nadal
Since news of his withdrawal from the final Grand Slam of the year broke, speculation has surmounted yet again – and this time it is about when and if he will return. Already the rumour mill has taken off into full swing suggesting that due to the severity of his knee injury he will not play the rest of the year, some have implied that his career may be over, but has Nadal spoke of this himself? No. He hopes to return to competition in time for the Davis Cup and no doubt this is a realistic goal, which he has set for himself and only he knows his body. He will be the one to decide when he is ready.
Rafa: ruthless in resilience
Yes, Rafael Nadal plays a very physical game, playing grinding rallies point after point, game after game and match after match – he leaves nothing on the court, but he is still only 26-years old and he has time and a great team on his side to help him recuperate and maintain that resilient, fighting attitude that we have become accustomed to witnessing. Remember his knee injuries of 2009? I think the next three Grand Slams he won at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open after he was written off by many prove that he is a man who will rise to the occasion and when he does return – he returns well – with health on his side, determination in his mind and armed with his racquet ready to make his assault on the Tour once again.
Fighting against ‘failure’
It was only a week ago that Novak Djokovic was subjected to unfair criticism about his game after a disappointing run at the Olympics. Many expected him to win a medal, he hoped that he would win a medal, but it was not to be. Even his former coach allegedly said that his mind was fragile and that he had issues he needed to deal with – and clearly that was silencing his cynics after he won the Masters Series in Toronto last week. Did that look like a player on the downfall? I do not think so.
Even the current world No.1, Roger Federer, has had to deal with constant speculation and people writing him off during his career – and not that long ago. I remember shifting uncomfortably in my seat in Rotterdam during one of Roger Federer’s press conferences this year as he was unfairly subjected to retirement questions once again. In February, some thought he was too old to play tennis competitively against the top guys on Tour, fast forward 5 months and he has won his record-breaking seventh Wimbledon title and won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in London. Has he silenced his critics? I think that is a definite yes.
Neither success nor failure is ever final
The point is Rafael Nadal is still a player in his prime and although his knee injury is not something which should be taken lightly, he will be cautious of damaging it anymore. It does not mean that his successes in his career are over, or that indeed his career has finished, he has just hit a bump in the road during his incredible tennis journey. Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.
I have no doubt in my mind that Rafael Nadal will return to the tennis courts once again to try and play tennis competitively and be it in a month or a year, it will be when he is ready. He is not obliged to have to feed people information about his rehabilitation, but he chooses to do so anyway, because he wants to get back on the court and do what he loves most in front of his many supporters who are willing him to fight against his injury – and a fight it will be. To quote Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” I think this is very apt at summing up Rafael Nadal and the fighting qualities that he possesses on the court, against his critics and indeed against his own body.
We wish him all the best in his recovery and look forward to seeing him back on court happy and healthy. Get well soon Rafa!