As he gets ready to launch yet another comeback from injury, Rafael Nadal explains how he maintains a positive perspective when it comes to dealing with the physical problems that have plagued his career since he was a young teen.
The Spaniard has sustained numerous injuries over the years, particularly to his knees, yet has always managed to return to his best, rising to the top of the rankings and adding to his Grand Slam titles tally.
At 32, he will attempt another comeback for 2019, after ending his 2018 season early due to a knee injury that forced him to retire from his US Open semi against Juan Martin del Potro, and an arthroscopic ankle surgery he underwent last month.
In Abu Dhabi this weekend for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Nadal admits that the frequent battles with injury sometimes take a toll on him, but he revealed how he is still able to overcome it.
“Yes of course it’s tough, you get tired to have pain, and you get tired to be injured. But that’s it. At the end of the day you come back home and you put everything on a balance and the balance always the positive things are much heavier than the negative things and then you wake up the next morning with the passion for the game, with the passion for the improvement and for the daily work and that’s the only way that I’m able to find a way to be back at the level that I want to be,” said the world No. 2.
“Hopefully this time will be again a good comeback and knowing all the difficulties that that presents but I’m excited about it.”
Nadal got back on the court just two weeks ago, but feels confident he can be ready in time for the Australian Open (starts January 14, 2019). Asked to elaborate on the state of his knees and ankle, he said: “I’m happy the way that I improved with the things. Of course I need to prove myself when arriving the official competition. I think hopefully playing here helps me to do the first step and then in the official competition I just try to increase a little bit the intensity on the legs and everything and then we’ll know a little bit more where I am.”
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Rafael Nadal is “confident” he’ll be at 100 per cent physically when the Australian Open comes around in less than three weeks’ time despite enduring yet another tough battle with injuries over the past few months.
The Spanish world No. 2 had to pull the plug early on his 2018 season and hasn’t played since a knee problem forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle to remove an intra-articular loose body in November and only stepped back on the court for training two weeks ago.
Nadal will dip his toes back into competition at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi, where he faces either Kevin Anderson or Chung Hyeon in his opener on Friday.
“I started two weeks ago and of course doing the things step by step and I think I have time to be ready for Melbourne [Australian Open] at my 100 per cent,” Nadal told reporters in the UAE capital on Thursday.
“It’s going to be good to have some matches before but I’m confident that I’m going to arrive to Melbourne with the right situation.”
The 32-year-old retired during matches at two of the four Grand Slams in 2018, but still added a record-extending 11th French Open crown to his collection. He assures he remains motivated to launch yet another comeback from injury, despite a career plagued by physical problems throughout.
“After the second part of the year, have been tough last year in terms of injuries but that happens and that’s part of my tennis career too,” he added.
“Just try to stay with calm, try to work the right way and when I’m back I know things are not easy, I know at the beginning you always have tough feelings and pains in the body that normally you don’t have, but just I have experience in all of this and try to be ready for the everyday practices and when arrive the matches I don’t have to ask myself big things at the beginning, just trying to be positive with every improvement and that way normally you get the right point.”
Joining Nadal in Abu Dhabi is the man who replaced him at the top of the rankings, Novak Djokovic. The Serb is the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion and will be looking to win a third major in a row at the Australian Open next month.
Djokovic ended a two-year Grand Slam title drought at Wimbledon in July and has lost just three matches since. He admits that he lost his motivation during that difficult period that followed the 2016 French Open, where he completed the career Grand Slam, but has now found different ways to attain gratification from the sport.
“I feel I’m not prioritising success on the tennis court for the sake of the success only as I used to do that probably up to five years ago. For me tennis is more of a platform now for other things and for the values I want to share, and the messages I want to share with the young generation,” Djokovic explained on Thursday.
“Ultimately a tennis court for me is a place where I get challenged in every possible way emotionally and my character is kind of on the line. I treat that as my own personal school of life. Not many places can trigger me in a positive or negative way as a tennis court does. So I just see it as a place where I can grow and regardless of where I am in the world, because it just demands extreme focus from my side and dedication, outbursts of emotions and so I get to learn a lot about myself that maybe I didn’t know that I have – things or emotions that are suppressed, they come out on the tennis that’s why I feel grateful to play this sport.”
Djokovic takes on either Karen Khachanov or Dominic Thiem in Abu Dhabi on Friday and officially kicks of his 2019 season at the Qatar Open in Doha next week.
* Provided by AFP
Serena Williams has described the new changes to the ‘Special Ranking’ rule introduced by the WTA for 2019 as “great” and believes the move will encourage more players to take a break from the tour to have children then come back to resume their careers.
Under the new rules, returning mothers who have a special ranking that would earn them a seeded position can be drawn as an ‘additional seed’, meaning they would not be able to face a seed in the opening round of a tournament. This change also ensures that no seed will get bumped as a result of a returning mother given a protected seeding.
Williams, along with other mothers on tour like former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, had been advocating for such rule changes that would ease the transition back for players following the birth of their children.
“I think it’s great,” Williams said of the new rule changes during a press conference in Abu Dhabi ahead of an exhibition match against her sister Venus on Thursday.
“Women that are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it and not have to wait ‘til the twilight of their years to have children and I think it’s a really great rule.
The 37-year-old American had her daughter Alexis Olympia in September 2017 and returned to the WTA circuit last March at Indian Wells.
“I think having gone through the experience myself really opened my eyes up to me and, ‘Would have I done it sooner had there been different rule changes?’ I don’t know. But now that there is an opportunity, people don’t have to ask that question anymore,” added Williams, who is currently ranked 16 in the world.
“I think it’s a great rule change. I think it is a lot. But I feel like it’s just something that’s always going to be there and be special and I’m happy that they did it.”
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi will be Williams’ first on-court appearance since she lost the US Open final to Naomi Osaka in September amid a wave of controversy that resulted from her outburst at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, whom she accused of sexism.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve been training for a couple of months now and I’m getting ready for the new year,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said in the UAE capital.
* Provided by AFP