Rafael Nadal had already broken every tennis heart around the world when he soldiered through his quarterfinal match against David Ferrer, clearly injured, clearly in pain, but refusing to do himself or his opponent the ignominy of retiring. And the Spaniard clambered even further into the public’s affections when he sat in front of the world’s tennis media to explain the reasons behind that decision.
“I had a problem during the match, in the very beginning,” said Nadal. “After that, the match was almost over. So that’s what I can say. But you know what, for me is difficult come here and speak about. In Doha I wasn’t healthy. Today I have another problem. Seems like I always have problems when I lose, and I don’t want to have this image, no? I prefer don’t talk about that today. If you can respect that, will be a very nice thing for me. Thank you.”
Refusing to make excuses for the loss, and heaping praise on friend and compatriot Ferrer, Nadal explained that in his mind the nature of tennis is that there are positive and negative moments, and today’s defeat, although devastating, was one of the many peaks and troughs that go hand in hand with being a professional tennis player.
“The tennis career, you have higher moments and lower moments. I had almost all the time very, very happy moments and very nice moments in my career. That’s part of the sport. Last year I was very lucky. I was healthy most of the year. I was playing unbelievable during all the year. This year I did I think all the right things to start the season playing really well. And, seriously, I was playing like this in the first exhibition in Abu Dhabi. After that starts the problem. Was a difficult month for me, no? That’s part of the sport. Accept; keep working; try my best in the next tournament. That’s what I can do.”
The cruel irony is that Nadal had finally recovered from the virus that cut short his season opener in Doha, and was feeling better than he had done since arriving in Melbourne. But the after-effects of that virus, the weakening of his body, no doubt played a part in the injury he sustained in the opening games of the match against Ferrer.
“I felt fantastic the last couple days. I practiced very good yesterday. I had a fantastic warmup today before the match. Only feeling that I can say was very positive. I started the second week, and when the second week started, everything was better and better for me: the health, sweat, the level of tennis. Everything was better and better.”
“The only problem was a little bit of unlucky. In general, I had a virus. When you have a virus, your body goes down and you have more risk of everything. That’s probably what happened. That’s the simple thing.”
But Nadal was adamant that at no point did he consider retiring from the match, having been forced into that situation against Andy Murray at the same juncture at Australian Open 2010.
“I hate the retirements, so this wasn’t the day. I did last year. I hate that moment. I didn’t want to repeat that.”
Nadal will fully assess his injury, believed to be to his left thigh, over the coming weeks before deciding when he will be able to return to the court.