PARIS: Rafael Nadal’s stirring comeback from a career-threatening knee injury was crowned at the French Open when he won the Roland Garros title for a record eighth time to move into joint third place in the all-time list of Grand Slam winners.
But the 27-year-old Spaniard admitted that the injury woes that sidelined him for seven months last year are far from being a thing of the past. On the contrary, they are ever-present on his mind.
Nadal had pointedly refused to answer questions about the state of his knees during the French Open fortnight, but he opened up after his impressive 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over David Ferrer on Sunday.
“My knee, not knees. I am lucky that it is not both. It’s only one,” Nadal said with a wry smile when questioned again on his troublesome joints.
“But the knee, some weeks I didn’t feel well, but the last couple of weeks I start to feel my knee better.
“So that’s positive. And the knee is resisting tough matches like I had in Rome against (Ernest) Gulbis, David Ferrer — two days straight.
“The knee resisted a very tough battle against (Novak Djokovic) the other day (in the semi-final). Yesterday I didn’t have a terrible feeling, so that’s very positive news.
“Today I was able to compete at 100 percent another time, so that’s fantastic. It’s true that in Barcelona my feeling was very negative about my knee. So I am still going week by week, day by day. I will take a look after here.”
After here means first of all pulling out of next week’s grasscourt tournament in Halle, Germany where he had been scheduled to begin his preparations for Wimbledon, which starts on June 24.
Not the ideal manner, he agrees, to prepare for a tournament where he does not enjoy the huge advantage he has over his main rivals on the clay of Roland Garros, where he has a staggering record of 59 wins against one loss.
But, after his first Grand Slam event in almost a year, it is time to take stock and see what his body and knees are telling him.
“I will check everything after here,” he said.
“I will check all my body, and I really hope to be ready for Wimbledon. I won’t play a tournament before Wimbledon, so that’s not the ideal situation before a Grand Slam like Wimbledon that is on grass and the conditions are very different.
“It’s a tournament that is more unpredictable for that reason. But I am going to try to arrive in good shape to Wimbledon. And if not, I am going to look at the rest of the season.
“Because even if I don’t play a good Wimbledon, that doesn’t mean I am not going to try, because I am going to try my 100 percent to be ready for there and to play good tennis there.”
So instead of Halle in Germany, reluctant superstar Nadal will head back to his beloved home-base on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca,
And there he basically hopes to be left alone with his friends and family to heal his aching joints and recharge his mental and physical batteries ahead of the two remaining Grand Slam events of the year in London and New York.
Asked if he expected a big welcoming party when he flies home, Nadal said: “No, honestly, I don’t think so.
“Maybe some of my friends, some of your friends from the press, but people down there are not doing that. I mean, they wouldn’t meet me at the airport.
“It’s true I like feeling that people love me. It’s a very special feeling. But I don’t need them to come to the airport to know that they like me.
“In Mallorca, the best present they can give me is to leave me alone, to give me peace, to let me get back to my real, normal life.
“Being left alone, this is priceless.”