The news that Rafael Nadal has been forced out of the US Open is most definitely incredibly disappointing and sad. His knee injury has not rehabbed enough and he’s had no match play on hard courts but is this...
The news that Rafael Nadal has been forced out of the US Open is most definitely incredibly disappointing and sad. His knee injury has not rehabbed enough and he’s had no match play on hard courts but is this withdrawal leading to something more? We all know what a great player he is and the passion, aggressiveness and dedication he puts into his work, but he is more than that; Rafa is just a nice, down to earth person who really is just a big kid. For him it is not work, it is his pleasure. He just loves to play and the fans love to watch him play. No one outside his camp would have or could have expected such a decision even though he gave up carrying the flag for Spain at the Olympics, pulling out of playing at the same time and then withdrawing from the ATP Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati. This has to be very worrying. The last time he pulled out of a major was Wimbledon 2009 when his knee were a problem but adding to his concerns at that time was the marriage split up of his parents both of whom he is very close to. What is concerning this time is that there is no advice on the state of the injury, just that he is not ready to play. Puzzlingly it has led to comments of some sort of hidden agenda; that it is not just the knees that are keeping him away from the sport. Such suggestions came up on my Twitter account @crosscourt1 as soon as he withdrew from Toronto. People were suggesting that the knee injury could not possibly be in such a state. There were suggestions that he was defending his ego and there was no confidence in his game or himself. Then, as now, I can’t help but disagree completely. In my mind Rafa has always been above board and open, sometimes a bit too much which he has also admitted, but to suggest he has an ego problem is a bit much and silly, or any other ulterior situation is a bit ridiculous. Sure he may be down on a bit of confidence but that is more the fact that he has not been able to play – confidence comes from playing matches and winning matches. There could definitely be a personal problem but I believe the root of all this are the knees and that is why it is so worrying for the future of his career. The hard courts of North America don’t help him and that was in his mind when he made the decision not to play. But is this something that we are going to see constantly with him, where he avoids the North American summer tour because he can’t stand the pain and physical dangers? He has had treatment of injections and the pain is horrendous, it’s exhausting. You have to wonder how much of that he can put up with and whether he wants to. It is so sad that a professional athlete like him has to have his life and career determined by such treatment just to be able to do what they love. Rare would it be to find someone who believes that Rafa’s career will be as long as that of Roger Federer’s, his greatest opposition. For all of us close to this great sport, and to all the fans out there that would indeed be tragic. I think the immediate question is if Nadal will play before the end of the year. Let’s hope he does and that he continues into 2013. As part of that, let’s also hope there is definitely nothing more underlying or questionable about his time off the circuit, but that it is just the knee problem, as big a problem as it is. Physically things can be fixed, emotions are not so easy to rectify.