Fears for Rafael Nadal's long-term future after withdrawal from Queen's

Fears for Rafael Nadal's long-term future after withdrawal from Queen's

Barry Flatman, Sunday Times Tennis Correspondent

To say Rafael Nadal’s decision not to defend his Queen’s Club title next week puts his Wimbledon participation in doubt is probably jumping to false conclusions. However, the concern for the long-term future of the world No 1 is once again brought starkly into focus with those troublesome knees.

Nadal today announced that he had forced to withdraw from the Aegon Championships which begin on Monday after doctors, who examined his knees after an intensive schedule on clay, advised him to rest.

The warning signs have been flashing for the hugely popular Spaniard for several years. Many have stated that his style of play could not be more brutal on his body. The knees, or to be more specific the tendons, suffer the brunt of the pounding.

“I have been having some problems in the past months with my knees, that's no secret, that did not allow me to compete always at 100 per cent.," Nadal said. "I need to work with my team to recover well, work on my physical condition to be at my top form and get ready for the grass to play at Wimbledon.”

Nadal’s premature exit from his beloved French Open at the hands of Robin Soderling last Sunday initially appeared to have a silver lining in that it would at least allow him a few days to rest and recuperate after an arduous spring. It was well documented that he was reluctant to play in the Madrid Open a fortnight before Roland Garros and ultimately Rafa’s inability to let down his adoring Spanish public has hurt him.

Doubtless he felt bad about not being able to spearhead his nation’s team in last December’s Davis Cup final in Argentina when the knees again waved the white flag of submission after too much play. Throughout the clay court season, which started in early April, he fought proudly.

Nadal triumphed in the principality, moved straight on to Barcelona and won again. The next week it was Rome and another title and after just a few days off he was almost forced to go to Madrid where he fought that gargantuan semi-final against Novak Djokovic that extended more than four hours before coming up, understandably, a little short, less than a day later against Roger Federer.

He knew it was too much. In fact, everyone knew it was too much but the real damage is done to Nadal on the brutal hard courts on which, apart from the European spring and the truncated grass court season, most of the ATP World Tour is contested. The agonising sight of Nadal clearly in pain a couple of years ago at the US Open against compatriot David Ferrer was a sad portent of what was to come.

Then just a few months ago in Rotterdam the tendonitis in his knees again effectively rendered Nadal lame for the final against a sympathetic Andy Murray. “If he stopped I wouldn’t have thought any less of him,” said the Scot. “There’s a difference of stopping when you’re not feeling great or you have a slight problem, or [when] you can’t move like he had at the end of the match.

“I was thinking to myself ‘he should stop the match it’s better for him, for his knee’. I have a lot of respect for him. I don’t want to see him making his knee worse. It wasn’t particularly entertaining towards the end.”

Everyone who holds the sport of tennis dear hopes that Rafa Nadal will be fit enough to defend his Wimbledon title. Many who have seen him frankly play too much for the continued health of his body over the last couple of years are racked with doubt whether we will still be watching him in a couple of years time.


Hall of Fame
A very sensitive article unlike the ridiculous one that was in this morning's Sunday Times from Pat Cash who I never liked