World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has admitted that being in the lockdown and inside the bubble at tennis tournaments in recent months has been hard for him personally, and that he found it difficult to cope mentally and physically.
On Sunday, Rafael Nadal won his record 13th French Open title with a straight sets demolition of Novak Djokovic. While speaking in a Q&A to the press after his win, the Spaniard revealed his personal struggles in the months leading up to his latest triumph.
"On a social level, we’ve been living with continuous problems. On a personal level, after the lockdown I went through a bad time, my body did not respond in the best way possible. I had a lot of days where I could only train very little, with unpleasant feelings in my body. All of that, together with training without clear goals, makes the problem worse."
Rafael Nadal, who remains uncertain about when he will compete next at the moment, added that he was able to overcome the difficult period because he had the right people around him.
"I had the right people by my side. They pushed me when necessary & they gave me the freedom to enjoy other things when I really needed to. We’ve had to make difficult decisions, like not going to New York. Everything is good or bad based on the final result. Right now, it seems like it was successful because I won at Roland Garros, if I had lost maybe it wouldn’t have been so good. That’s the reality of sport, a totally result-based world. The decisions were made consensually, analysing everything. Beyond the result, I’m very happy with the steps we took."
Ranked No. 2 in the world currently, Rafael Nadal also revealed that being in the bubble at recent events was much harder for him than the members of his team.
"Personally, I find it harder than they (my team) do. I’m a person who prefers being with people more. Carlos (Moya) has always had the ability to get by on his own, as has Rafa (Maymo, his physio). For me it’s a little harder. The days have seemed longer to me than to them, but we’ve rediscovered things that we had forgotten. It’d been 3 years since I’d picked up a PlayStation controller, and we played a lot with each other. We’ve also been reading the latest news & watching the odd series to kill time."
During the interview, Rafael Nadal explained why the pandemic, for which he has raised funds through his foundation and other initiatives, has affected him deeply.
"We’re in a sad situation. You can’t share moments with people you’d like to. Everything is less pleasant & you cannot remove yourself from the things that are going on in the world, also knowing that we are back in a complicated situation in Spain. It is normal to suffer because of what’s happening. There have been other pandemics in the past, but in recent history we have not been through one."
I've managed to equal a record that seemed impossible: Rafael Nadal
Shifting focus to his on-court achievements, Rafael Nadal revealed that while he considers winning his 20th Slam a significant achievement, he is not too concerned about his ranking among the greats.
"On a sporting level, it’s clear that I’ve achieved something significant: winning one of the most important tournaments in the world 13 times & equalling Federer with 20. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, particularly you journalists. I’ve managed to equal a record that seemed impossible. The numbers should be analysed by people who have good knowledge of the history of tennis."
"Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me much. I’m happy with my career. At the moment, it’s clear that I’m one of the two. We’ll see what happens in the next few years: what Djokovic does, what Federer does when he returns and what I keep doing. If all goes well, we’ll have time to analyse it when our careers are over."
Rafael Nadal added that he has no plans to retire just yet. He still has the motivation to achieve more on the court, and will continue to compete as long as he can.
"In the end, I’m a lucky person. Life has smiled upon me so far. I don’t know what is left for me to win, but the excitement is in continuing to move forward. If you don’t have that enthusiasm it’s time to dedicate yourself to something else. As long as I have it, I have to keep working hard every day to keep giving myself chances of competing at the highest level."Published 13 Oct 2020, 17:20 IST