In today’s The Times (UK), there are a few Rafa related articles. Thanks to @Heatherleatt, we have copies of the articles in pdf format. I don’t usually reproduce full articles out of respect for their creators, but these are behind a pay-wall. (One that, if you subscribe to, it’s almost impossible to unsubscribe and keep them from auto-charging your credit card. That is, if my experience is the norm.) So, I’ll link to each pay-walled article and the pdfs sent to me.
First and foremost is an interview: It will take time for me to be the real Rafa again – by Neil Harman (pdf version). Seems Rafa is still not sure about his knee.
“I’m going to try to play in Abu Dhabi, knowing the knee is still not perfect. The doctors say that the images are very good, so that is a big calm for me, but I still feel something. I need to be careful. I need to be focused on how the knee is getting better or worse every day, and don’t make a mistake that can be negative for my future.
“Not yet do I have the feeling that I am 100 per cent ready to compete, to say, ‘I’m going to go there, I will be ready to run for every ball, to play aggressive, to do what I want with my legs and then try to play my best tennis to win.’
“Today it is not the case, so I really don’t like to be on a court and don’t feel I can compete and run as much as I can and I want, so if that happens I will be changing my mind and will be back in Majorca and will keep practising with my recovery and change to try to play on clay. I don’t want to start with big doubts on the knee.”
I have to admit,that’s not what I wanted to hear after he’s been out for so long. More importantly, I’m sure it’s not what he wanted to be saying. I’m hoping this is his usual cautious self speaking and that his knee does hold up.
“I am a positive guy and I think that I won’t forget how to play tennis in six, eight months. I don’t know when I will be back, but it will take time to come back to my best. I will work very hard to be back where I would love to be. I’m going to play tennis another time, it’s not something I have forgotten how to do.”
This is such typical Rafa: cautious to the point of sounding negative, but positive too.
“I was enjoying more than ever being back in the real competition, because in 2011, although I won a lot against almost everybody except Djokovic, my passion for the game was going down — that was my feeling. In 2012 I was enjoying it a lot more.”
This confirms what, I think, a lot of his fans were seeing, and it explains so much.
“I would love to be that good to change, but I am good because I play this way,” he says. “If I play like [Roger] Federer, I’m not good, that’s the reality. Everybody plays with everything they have, so Federer understands the sport one way, Djokovic another way, Andy [Murray] another way, and I understand it my way.
“I didn’t start playing tennis a few months ago, I started at 3. My style has been always similar, that’s true, but my position on the court has improved, my serve has improved. But the general game you cannot change, the mind you cannot change. I think my way worked well.”
I love this. You can’t completely change your instincts for the game this many years into a career. Yes, you can add things, improve and make small, important changes here and there, but changing the foundation of the game and who you are? No.
“It will take time [to be the real Nadal again]. The people have to know when you are outside of the competition and haven’t played for a long time, you will have problems to come back to your best, but that is the beautiful thing of life — it gives you challenges, and this is another one. I think I have passed a few before with a very positive feeling and I hope that is going to happen again.”
Take note: give him time. He freaking deserves it.
Next up is a commentary piece by Harman: Conversation serves only to heighten the apprehension (pdf version).
They may have to wait a while for complete fulfilment. Nadal is not quite there; he is a little way from being ready to play. He needs to be given him time and space. By the French Open in May, perhaps, the real Nadal will be with us. It will be worth waiting for.
Indeed. (Although, playing well or not, he’s still the real Nadal.)
I admit to being surprised by this one, but I don’t tend to follow the business side of things that much. So, perhaps that’s why this seemed to come out of left field to me.