Nadal Needs Change Now to Save Future
Doctors have analyzed Nadal's knees, taken pictures, poked and prodded, and have not found torn ligaments or major damage. They found tendinitis. On Tuesday, though, Nadal said he's still not sure he'll be able to play at Wimbledon, but that he's going to London for rest and rehab.
In other words, he's going to play.
"I have two difficult weeks ahead of me, especially because I won't be doing what I like doing most, which is to play tennis, but I will be working on my recovery through physiotherapy treatments as well as recovery work on the specific muscular area. . ." he wrote on his website.
"I am going to give my 200 percent to be ready for the most important tournament in the world, the tournament that I always dream about. I will not go out and play, especially on the Wimbledon Centre Court, if I am not 100 percent ready to play."
Look, he's going to play, OK? He doesn't have to go all the way to London for physical therapy. They sell Advil in Mallorca. (I think.) And on top of that, Uncle Toni is a drama queen. He has been sounding alarms for years that his nephew and pupil, Rafa, has career-threatening injuries. And this time, the timing was in bad taste, announcing that Nadal might not play in Wimbledon just as Roger Federer was about to win the French Open.
It smelled too much of trying to steal Federer's moment. Nadal is too big and too tough to let someone cry out excuses like that. He has refuted Uncle Toni's warnings in the past, too.
So I'm a little conflicted here, because it's hard to believe that this injury, today's, at this moment, is not being overstated. Even Federer pointed out that Nadal wasn't taping his knees at the French Open, that he knows from experience on the other side of the net when Nadal is hurt, and that he didn't think the threat to skip Wimbledon was too serious.
I think Nadal probably needed a mental break as much as physical after losing in the French.
But don't take too deep of a breath, tennis. The long-term on Nadal's problems are serious.
Just 23 years old and how many injuries has he already had to his knees and feet?
No one in tennis history has put as much of a beating on his body as Nadal has. No one has stormed the court the way he has.
"I have been playing with pain on my knees for some months now and I simply can't go on like this," he said.
"The pain was limiting certain movements in my body, which affected me mentally as well."
Players who rely so much on foot speed and footwork tend to have shortened shelf lives. You lose that half-step and it's major. If Nadal can't run down balls that have already passed him, then he becomes a different player.
Nadal needs to be Nadal, and it won't be easy to change styles to save on the pounding. Shorter points. More aggressive serve?
He's going to have to make some changes, for his career, and for his game. Men's tennis is not prepared to thrive without him, and nothing would be sicker than to watch him slowly fade.
Federer was dominating the world, but his popularity didn't take off, not in the U.S. anyway, until Nadal offered a contrast.
Start with Uncle Toni, who also called the French fans idiots last week. He has a genius knack for Nadal's game. So have him stick with that and tell him to shut up.
Then, fix the schedule. Nadal needs to cut back now. His schedule is too tough on his body with his style.
He has complained that the tennis tour's schedule overall is too grueling. And that's true. Several players have wanted the Australian Open moved from January to March, providing tennis with a clear offseason. Great idea.
But until it happens (never?) maybe Nadal should stop playing the Australian entirely, take plenty of time off between the U.S. Open in September and the French in May every year.
In January, there was talk of his sore knees and Nadal said it was just muscular fatigue, not a "pain that concerns me." In February, he said his problem was not the knee, that it was "nothing similar to last year."
Clearly, something was wrong. And then he played tournaments he could have skipped during the buildup to the French.
This makes no sense. If his knees have been hurting him for months, as he said, then why didn't he rest them?
It's the warrior thing, I know. He wants to fight through the pain, and what he has done so far has worked.
No way will a guy who fights like that miss Wimbledon now. But it's time for grown-up decisions before Nadal gets old-man knees.