Rafael Nadal has revealed that during some of the lowest points of his six-month injury layoff last year he had conversations with his team and family about the possibility that he may have to “say goodbye” to tennis.
Following his 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Matteo Berrettini on Friday to reach his sixth Australian Open final, Nadal spoke candidly about the uncertainty surrounding his future prior to his return to competition. “I went through a lot of challenging moments, a lot of days of hard work without seeing a light there,” said the 35-year-old. “But still working and still receiving plenty of support from my team and from my family, too, without a doubt. 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 goodbye.”
Following the loss of his French Open title in June, Nadal was forced to spend the best part of half a year away from the tour due to a recurrence of a long-standing foot injury which he has suffered from since childhood. The Spaniard attempted to compete at the Citi Open in Washington in August but pulled the plug on his season shortly afterwards.
“For a long time I wasn’t able to practice,” said Nadal. “Sometimes I went on court and I was able to practice 20 minutes, sometimes 45, sometimes zero, sometimes two hours, but have been very, very rough in terms of imagine myself playing at the best-of-five at this moment.”
Asked about how tough the past few months have been, Nadal noted that his issues do not compare to the loss people around he world have suffered during the pandemic. “Of course my months are not tough at all comparing to a lot of families that lost a lot of people,” he said. “But in terms of personal thing, yeah, because of course every day have been an issue in terms of problems on the foot.”
Despite returning to compete at the highest level, Nadal insists his foot issues will remain until the end of his career, but in Australia he has been able to manage them and succeed. “The doubts gonna be here probably for the rest of my career, without a doubt, because I have what I have and that’s something that we cannot fix. But for me it’s amazing, and I’m super happy to be able to compete for the last three weeks at the level that I am doing.”
He continued: “Not only about tennis, that’s for sure. It’s surprising for me to be able to play at the level that I am playing, but just compete and play tennis at the high level again, facing the most important players of the world, for me, it’s something unbelievable, no?”