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Rafael Nadal reveals struggles with anxiety in lead-up to Australian Open

Rafael Nadal is now back to fighting form, but admits he struggled in the 2016 season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29:  Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) celebrates winning in the Men's Final match against Raphael Nadal of Spain on day 14 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 29, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Nadal, now back to fighting form and top fitness, opened up at an event in Spain 

Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal recently finished runner-up at the 2017 Australian Open to Roger Federer, declaring a much-vaunted return after a six-month break from tennis. Nadal, who had not been pointedly struggling with injury as he has in the past, and as many of his peers currently are, struggled with confidence and mental fortitude after a string of losses, which had seriously negatively impacted his play. 

Known for being one of the strongest players on the tour mentally, Nadal revealed in an interview yesterday that he has truggled significantly with anxiety over the past year. 

At an event for one of his sponsors, Spain’s Banc Sabadell, the 14-time Major winner said, “I had much anxiety and couldn't control the pressure.” Uncertain of himself and his game, Nadal said he had to ‘talk (my)self through’ everything, and that it was very “difficult to explain” how he felt, and how that worry had negatively impacted him. 

The Spaniard had a mixed season last year, but flourished on his favourite surface, clay, winning titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, although he missed out on the French Open due to injury. 

That was a fact, Nadal revealed, that he had reiterated to himself to keep going in the wake of the anxiety. “It's difficult to explain these things,” he said at the event. “I came back home and said myself: you won almost everything, why are you nervous?”

“I asked myself that same question every day.”

It was this feeling, he said, that prompted Nadal to finally call a break and take a hiatus from the sport. 

Despite many having suggested it is time for the Spaniard to retire, Nadal rubbished the idea. “I never thought of calling time on a career,” he said, “but definitely a few months.”

Nadal said the break had been instrumental in refreshing him. “Now, I am ready to compete and playing well against all the best players in the world,” he said, “and having chances to win.”

To many tennis watchers across the world, Nadal appeared visibly tense over the 2016 season, but appears to have found his rhythm again in 2017. The Spaniard has been in top form physically and mentally this year, and playing like he did in the earliest years of his career. 

That confidence is evident and Nadal acknowledges the fact. “If I keep working this way,” he said, “I can have a good season.”

On the Australian Open

Despite having lost out on a 15th Major, Nadal said he was “not too disappointed” by the loss to Roger Federer. “ If I lose,” he said, “it's because he deserved to win, but I am enjoying. It was something special.”

Other players who have suffered

Nadal is far from the only player to have suffered anxiety issues. American former Top 10 player Mardy Fish, who for a while was the American No. 1, has had a very public, well-documented struggle with anxiety, and one that derailed his entire 2014 treatment. Fish suffered cardiac issues concurrently to his anxiety, and this ultimately saw the hard-court specialist retire in 2015. 

He has since become an outspoken advocate of mental health issues. 

But he is not the only one

Awareness

Although he has not publicly spoken of any personal struggles, World No 1 Andy Murray is perhaps one of the sport’s biggest advocates for mental health awareness. Last year, the Scot edited a column in which he wrote extensively of the importance of discussing issues, highlighting Great Britain’s mounting male suicide rate and urging people to seek professional help. 

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