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Injured Nadal: “I can’t say I’m not destroyed mentally, because I would be lying”

The Spaniard limped in and out of the press conference but said he hoped to be back on court again soon

Rafael Nadal AO 2023 injury AI/Reuters/Panoramic

Rafael Nadal admitted that he was “destroyed mentally” after he suffered a left hip injury during his second-round exit from the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The Spaniard said he hoped to be back on court as soon as possible, because the idea of being out for a lengthy period of time was too tough to contemplate.

The world No 2 and defending champion jarred his hip when running for a forehand midway through the second set of his clash with the American Mackenzie McDonald, and though he continued to the end after treatment, his movement was seriously restricted and he could barely hit a backhand. His 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat means he will drop down the rankings to at least No 6.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s difficult to accept, sometimes you feel super tired about all this stuff in terms of injuries,” he said.

“I can’t come here and say, lying, that the life is fantastic and staying positive and keep fighting,” Nadal said. “Not now. Tomorrow starts another day. Now it’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day, and you need to accept that, and keep going.

“I can’t complain about my life at all,” Nadal continued, trying to put things in context. “So just in terms of sports and in terms of injuries and tough moments, I mean, that’s another one. Just can’t say that I am not destroyed mentally at this time, because I will be lying.

“Yeah, it’s hard for me, you know. But let’s see. I mean, hopefully is nothing too bad. In the end have been three positive weeks in terms of practice. So I really hope that that don’t put me out of the court for a long time, because then it’s tough to make all the recovery again. Is not only the recovery. It’s all the amount of work that you need to put together to come back at a decent level.

“I went through this process too many times in my career, and I am ready to keep doing, I think, but that’s not easy, without a doubt.”

AI/Reuters/Panoramic

“I don’t know if it’s muscle, if it’s joint, if it’s cartilage”

The sight of Nadal trudging up the steps into the player area after the match and again limping into and out of the press conference room was tough to watch, not least since the 36-year-old spent much of the second half of 2022 struggling with injuries.

Nadal said he had been having issues with his hip in previous days but nothing compared to what happened on court.

“It have been a couple of days like this, but nothing like today in that movement,” he said. “I don’t know. We’re gonna start talking about that now, but I don’t know what’s going on, if it’s muscle, if it’s joint.

“I have history in the hip, that I had issues. I had to do treatments in the past, address a little. Was not this amount of problem. Now I feel I cannot move. But I don’t know until I do the test and all this stuff, I don’t know. Is difficult to make resolution if it’s a muscle, if it’s the joint, if it’s the cartilage. I don’t know.”

Nadal: “I didn’t want to retire as defending champion here”

The injury occurred on the first point of the eighth game as Nadal ran for a ball in his forehand corner, only to jar himself as he stopped. Instantly, he cast a concerned look in the direction of his team and after the following point, he bent double, the pain immediately obvious.

After finishing the game – effectively letting two serves from McDonald go by – Nadal had the trainer on and then took a medical timeout. When he returned, it was clear he could not move properly or hit his backhand in his usual way and McDonald wrapped up the set.

The American found it hard to focus in the third set – playing an injured opponent is never easy – but did enough to get the job done as Nadal continued to the end. The Spaniard has retired from a match 10 times in his career but only four times since 2010.

“I consider all the time stopping, but I didn’t ask the physiotherapist at the end. I have to know myself. And I tried to keep playing without increasing the damage. I was not able to hit the backhand at all. I was not able to run for the ball. But I just wanted to finish the match. That’s it.

“I didn’t ask (my team). I am old enough to take my own decisions. So I didn’t want to retire, to be defending champion here. No, I didn’t want to leave the court with a retirement. Better like this at the end. I lost. Nothing to say. Congratulate the opponent.

“That’s sport at the same time. Just try your best till the end. Doesn’t matter the chances that you have. That’s the philosophy of the sport. That’s the essence of the sport by itself. I tried to follow that during all my tennis career, and I tried of course to not increase the damage, because I didn’t know what’s going on.”

Nadal still motivated to continue playing at the top

At 36, with a string of serious injuries throughout his career, it would be easy for Nadal to say enough is enough, to hang up his racquets. And the way he stopped and waved to all corners of Rod Laver Arena will doubtless be taken by some to say he may never be back.

But the Spaniard’s drive is one of the things that has helped him to 22 Grand Slam titles and providing the injury is not too bad, is what will help him get back on court and be competitive again at the very top level.

“It’s a very simple thing,” he said. “I like what I do. I like playing tennis. I know it’s not forever. I like to feel myself competitive. I like to fight for the things that I have been fighting for almost half of my life or even more.

“And that’s it. It’s not that complicated to understand, no? When you like do one thing, at the end, sacrifices always make sense, because the “sacrifice” word is not like this. When you do things that you like to do, at the end of the day, it’s not a sacrifice. You are doing the things that you want to do.

“Sacrifice is when you are doing things that you don’t want to do, you know. And that was not my case. But say that, of course it’s tiring and frustrating to be a lot of part of my tennis career on recovering process and trying to fight against all this stuff all the time.

“But I accept it quite well during all my tennis career, and I was able to manage it well. But of course last seven months have been, again, another tough period of time, and that’s it. I don’t know what can happen in the future.

“But yeah, I need to avoid again a long period of time outside, because if not, it’s tough. If have been seven months playing almost nothing, and then if I have to spend long time again, then it’s super difficult in the end to be in rhythm and to be competitive and to be ready for the fight for the things that I really want to fight. Let’s see how the injury is, and then let’s see how I can manage to follow the calendar.

After finishing answering questions from Spanish press, Nadal then got up and limped away, still remembering to shake hands and say goodbye to the stenographers who note down his words and have done for years.

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