Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the up-coming Australian Open has left everyone incredibly disappointed and to a degree scratching their heads about what’s going on with the superstar. Nadal is a must see wherever he...
Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the up-coming Australian Open has left everyone incredibly disappointed and to a degree scratching their heads about what’s going on with the superstar. Nadal is a must see wherever he plays but now the sport continues to be deprived of one of its great personalities. The announcement indicating he is not playing the Australian Open, and Doha just before, is supposedly to do with the fact that he has been robbed of valuable practice time because of the stomach virus that hit him a week or so back. There was high anticipation of his return at the exhibition in Abu Dhabi but then he pulled out of that because of the virus. However, during that event David Ferrer said Nadal would be playing in Doha so fans relaxed a bit. Nah, nah, not the case as we know are aware. It is well documented that he has not played since losing in the second round of Wimbledon to Lukas Rosol because of his chronic knee problems but apparently the injury had been responding well to treatment which by-passed surgery. Then came the stomach virus that had him laid up for a few days with a fever but it just seems a bit baffling that despite losing some time in practice that he would still feel it was not worth going to the Australian Open. We know that he had been working in recent weeks and that he was back on the court practicing and training (apparently his first hit was on 20th November). Sure it’s a setback to lose some time but this is not any Joe Shmo tennis player, this is Rafa Nadal. He is a warhorse. In a statement he said: “My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors, but this virus didn’t allow me to practice this past week and therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open, as we had initially scheduled. “As my team and doctors say, the safest thing to do is to do things well and this virus has delayed my plans of playing these weeks. I will have to wait until the Acapulco tournament to compete again although I could consider to play before at any other ATP event. “I always said that my return to competition will be when I am in the right conditions to play and after all this time away from the courts I rather not accelerate the comeback and prefer to do things well.” Yes we are also aware that he is a perfectionist, but still I am left scratching my head as to what the heck is going on. Is there something way greater to all to this? Nadal is not scheduled to play again before Acapulco which starts on 25th February. He has suggested there is a chance that he could decide to play something before that if he feels right, but if he is not up to it, by the time Acapulco and the famed cliff top divers come around, it would be eight months since he had picked up a racquet for a match. During this time off the tour, he has missed the Olympic Games, the US Open, the ATP World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas final – all mega-events By skipping the Australian Open he will drop out of the top four for the first time in more than seven years – mid-2005 was the last time he was ranked lower than four. That is not likely to be a matter of concern for him but you wonder if there is more than meets the eye with Nadal’s situation. Is it a total lack of confidence in his own body that he is experiencing? In other words that he is apprehensive about whether his knees can stand the pressure which is playing on his mind. Rafa plays with such mental intensity that he doesn’t need something else distracting him. He has already cut down on his hard court events and is choosing to play more on his favoured clay because the cement surfaces are unforgiving and only add to his knee issues. Or is there something more to this whole scenario? And if so what on earth could it be? The last time he went through such a painful period in his career was when he withdrew from Wimbledon as the defending champion citing issues with his knees again but so much at that time had to do with the marital problems his beloved parents were going through. It robbed him of his mental focus. The sport can only hope that there is not more to this whole story and that this sporting superstar is back doing what he does best and what the fans want to see … Rafa Nadal playing tennis with all the grit and determination, with all the spins and speedy movement that he is famous for, and at the end of a match sliding off his headband shaking the sweat from his hair, shaking hand with an opponent and then flashing that smile to his fans. We can only wait and see what develops.