Retirement not in the conversation after Nadal’s unexpected Australian Open triumph
Rafael Nadal made history in Melbourne by recording his 21st major title, and he also stretched the potential horizon of his career by overcoming a foot injury and hitting his top form.
During Rafael Nadal’s historic run to his 21st major title we learned just how much adversity the legendary Spaniard faced over the last five months due to his chronically injured foot. After his emotional semi-final victory over Matteo Berrettini in Melbourne, Nadal spoke of long, difficult discussions with his team when the foot was not responding to therapy.
“A lot of conversations with the team, with the family about what can happen or what gonna happen if the things continue like this, thinking that maybe is a chance to say good-bye,” Nadal told reporters.
It was shocking to hear those words from Nadal, but such is the lay of the land when you are past the age of 35. Roger Federer’s fan base can surely attest.
Once again on Sunday evening, as Nadal stood at the podium and soaked in the applause of the enamored crowd inside Rod Laver Arena, the living legend admitted that he wasn’t really sure about his long-term future before the Australian Open commenced. But after a riveting run to his second Australian Open title, the third-oldest male player to ever raise the trophy in Melbourne told fans that he is committed to coming back in 2023 to fight for the title again.
Cue sighs of relief amongst tennis fans worldwide…
For Nadal, the low moments were very low this winter
During his time at the podium Nadal continued to refer to what he called the “low moments” of the past few months, making it clear that his most recent injury setback took a toll on him and forced him to contemplate whether he should continue his career or not.
“One month and a half [ago] I would say that maybe there is a chance that this was going to be my last Australian Open, but now I have plenty of energy to keep going,” Nadal told the crowd. “I really can’t explain the feelings that I have right now, but I am going to keep trying my best to keep coming next year.”
Afterwards, Nadal reflected on his good fortunes, and how he felt blessed – win or lose – to compete at a very high level nearly twenty years after his first Grand Slam main draw appearance (2003 Wimbledon).
“The things can change quick, no?” he said. “I feel lucky to have the chance to compete that way for the last month, no? Have been just amazing for me, unforgettable. Of course, after this month of practicing hard, playing very long matches, the foot was able to hold all this stress, of course I feel more confident that I going to have the chance to keep going, keep fighting, keep enjoying this beautiful sport. That’s what make me happy in terms of professional thing, no?”
After fighting through adversity, the new holder of the all-time record for men’s singles Grand Slam titles believes that more brilliant tennis is ahead of him.
“I just feel confident now that I going to have my chances to keep playing tennis for a while,” he said.
Nadal – Not thinking of clay, but planning to follow “personal calendar”
Nadal has been granted a reprieve from the tennis Gods, but he knows he isn’t out of the woods. He called his foot injury “difficult to fix” but said that being able to play without limitations has given him hope for the future.
“Tonight was no pain at all,” the 35-year-old, who has now won seven major singles titles since turning 30, said. “I was able to, as you can see, run without limitations. I don’t know what can happen tomorrow, but I feel lucky that I was able to play, to feel free to just play tennis, no? That’s an amazing feeling.
“I know things can change because, as I explained the other day, my injury is difficult to fix, impossible really. But I was able to play for one month. That’s a lot, something unexpected, something that give me plenty of energy to keep going. I just want to enjoy this moment and, of course, try to keep going. I really enjoyed the feeling to be back on the tour. I going to try to follow my personal calendar.”
A heartbreaking process leads to the ultimate joy
Nadal talked of the difficulties of his rehab regimen this winter, calling it “heartbreaking” to work so hard and see no results, albeit temporarily.
“We were trying things,” he said. “And for a long period of time without any success, with zero success. After all the things that I went through all my career, of course at my age the doubts are there. Knowing that you have an injury that you can’t recover from that, of course the doubts are there. Mentally is much tougher.
“In terms of going every day on the gym, on the recovery, on the swimming pool, on the practice court, not to be able to do the things that you really need to do to try to be back for such a long time, yeah, it’s tough, it’s painful.
“Mentally sometimes is heartbreaking, no? All the spirit, all the working, the working, discipline, every single day make a big difference for me. I feel very lucky that I have a great team next to me that supported all the time. Have been there more sometimes like friends than like a team. I have a great family always next to me, in the good and especially in the low moments. Without them, I will not be here.”