INTERVIEW: Rafael Nadal talks injuries, opponents & UAE

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  • He gets knocked down and he gets up again. Those aren’t just the lyrics to Chumbawamba’s 1990s hit ‘Tubthumping’ but a

    reference to Rafael Nadal’s constant battle with his own body.

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    Scattered between the 14 grand slams he’s collected over the past nine years are a stream of injuries suffered by the Spaniard,
    each of which has prompted him to launch one successful comeback after the other. 

    Since his breakthrough French Open victory in 2005, the 28-year-old has been forced to miss five majors as well as the London 2012 Olympics due to injury.

    In 2014, he sustained a back problem at the Australian Open in January, injured his right wrist to miss the US Open in August, and ended his season by having an appendectomy in November.

    His doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro later revealed that Nadal was to receive stem cell treatment on his spine, in an attempt to put his back troubles to rest.

    With Nadal set to open his 2015 campaign at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Friday, the world awaits
    yet another resurgence from the Mallorcan.

    “I did a lot of treatment on my back since Australia last year,” Nadal told Sport360.

    “Some worked for a few weeks, other ones for a little bit longer… one didn’t work. We always tried to fix the things we need to fix to be competing at 100 per cent.

    “In general, the feeling physically is okay and I hope to be ready to compete well in Abu Dhabi and Doha and Australia.”

    Nadal’s doctor explained last month that he was about to place stem cells in a joint his spine to regenerate cartilage and produce
    an anti-inflammatory effect. And while the world No3 is believed to have received the treatment already, he refused to confirm it or discuss it in any detail.

    “To talk about that you have to talk to the doctor. Because I am not ready to talk about these kind of things as I don’t have the whole information,” he explains.

    “I had different treatments on my back and I am not able to talk about all of them as I don’t have the information on all of them.
    They were done with different doctors and sometimes it worked well and sometimes not. And in the case of my back, it was tough to find the real thing that helped me, and I hope that the last one would be a positive one.”

    Nadal concedes that 2014 was a tough year for him, but it is one he still considers a success having captured four titles including a ninth French Open crown, along with an appearance in the Australian Open final.

    “It wasn’t a negative season in terms of all results, it was a negative season in terms of mentality because it was hard for me to
    accept that I wasn’t able to compete for the whole year,” he adds.

    Despite the mental challenge last season posed, Nadal does not allow his physical issues to overwhelm him.

    He says: “I’m a very happy guy. I have a great family around me, a lot of friends, and in Mallorca I enjoy the family, friends and I
    enjoy the life. I’m not thinking about my injuries every minute.

    “I’m thinking about all the positive things and how lucky I am to be where I am and all the things that life gives me. Many people are in a much more negative condition than me. So I’m happy and I can just say thanks to life for all it’s given me.”

    One more thing life can give him in 2015 is a mind-boggling 10th French Open title. 

    Nadal’s nine triumphs at Roland Garros is already a record, but there’s no denying that reaching double digits at a single event in singles is a special feat – one that no man has ever achieved and which only one woman, Margaret Court, has managed to accomplish (she won 11 Australian Opens in the ‘60s and ‘70s) in the history of the sport.

    But chasing history does not appear to be on Nadal’s priority list.

    “For me the 10th isn’t more important than the ninth, than the eighth, than the seventh or than the sixth. Seriously no. It doesn’t matter. Nine is a great number. I love the number nine. It’s not a pressure for me to try and win the 10th. I don’t see this extra
    pressure for the 10th,” he asserts.

    He also sees the recent maiden grand slam victories of Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka, along with the rise of players like Milos
    Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, as a natural and inevitable process.

    Train On: @RafaelNadal

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    Last year saw some new faces reach the finals of the bigger tournaments and many feel that 2015 season could be the most competitive in recent years.

    “It’s always been competitive but the real thing is that Roger (Federer) is 33, I’m 28, Novak (Djokovic) is 27, Andy (Murray) is 27,
    so we’re not going to be here forever,” Nadal said.

    “The new generation wants to win tournaments too and that’s the real thing. It’s natural. During all these years in the history
    of tennis, the same thing has happened. Nobody is there forever.”

    While the rivals he has mentioned have all added to their teams ex-champions in the form of new coaches over the past few seasons (Murray hired Ivan Lendl then Amelie Mauresmo, Federer is working with Stefan Edberg while Djokovic has Boris Becker) Nadal has stuck to his familiar formula, being coached by his uncle Toni.

    Asked if he sees himself making any changes in the near future, especially with Toni spending more and more time coaching his
    own children, Nadal said: “I never changed anything in my team during the whole of my career and that’s going to be the case for the next couple of years probably.”

    And his biggest goal for 2015? “To be happy,” he quickly responds. “I have much more than I ever dreamed to have in terms of career, in terms of life. Tennis is a very crucial part of my life today but life is much more important than tennis in general.”

    Quick takes

    On why he keeps coming back to MWTC

    "It’s the perfect place to start the season. It guarantees that I’ll play two matches and that’s important for me and I’ll see if that year can start, after a long time without competing, can start well and I’m sure that these two matches in Abu Dhabi will be very positive for my preparation."

    On what he would borrow from his fellow MWTC players

    Novak Djokovic – Backhand

    Stan Wawrinka – The powerful shots, and backhand

    Andy Murray – The control of the ball

    Feliciano Lopez – Serve

    Nicolas Almagro – Backhand