After the best start to a season of his career, winning the first 20 matches of 2022, Rafa Nadal was forced to the sidelines by a fractured rib. The Spanish legend, whose seemingly-boundless determination has carried him through plenty of setbacks in his career, is back at the Mutua Madrid Open this week and prepared to restart his season.
“I feel fine. In terms of preparation and tennis, it’s a different story”, admitted the Spaniard, all too aware of his situation. “Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is and the pain it produces. The first few weeks were particularly immobilising. After that I was able to do some gym work. It’s an injury that’s not significant, you know that it’s a certain [recovery] time and that really helps. But it was an injury that meant I could barely do any training”.
The Mallorcan picked up the fracture during the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open he played against his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz on 19 March, and necessary prudence has kept him away from competition since.
“It was lost time, there was no possibility of doing many things. It was six weeks and I started to train two weeks ago. The first weeks I could only do half an hour of very light work, which barely counts. But I’m very excited to be here”.
The Spaniard, a five-time champion at the Mutua Madrid Open, has been working in the Caja Mágica over the last few days to fine tune his game in double practice sessions in which he made the most of every minute.
“I still have days left. Today’s Sunday, I have this afternoon, Monday and Tuesday to try. I’ve improved since the day I arrived. I’m still having ups and downs after some time without being in this situation. It’s going to be a difficult week, that’s the reality. You have to keep a level head, accept that things will not be perfect. And from there, fight”.
“I’m trying to treat these days as a kind of preseason, without thinking beyond that. This is a tournament that has come slightly too soon for my preparations. Unfortunately you have to approach it with that in mind. You have to appreciate the positive things that happen, in terms of moments of good play, if a victory comes, that’s fantastic. You have to be quite patient and humble in order to stay present. I have to value the positive things that happen with my sights set on some week in the future. What happened has happened and you have to accept it”.
“It was a significant timeout, very bad for this time of the season, but I’m not one to regret things or complain. It is what it is. In life you can complain or feel sorry for yourself all day, but normally that doesn’t get you anywhere. Of course, they were difficult weeks, but from there, all you can do is look forward and look at your next goals with passion and determination”, explained the Spaniard honestly.
“It was a bad time. It’s a challenge for me, and I’m ready to accept adversity and the difficulty that comes with it. But, also, with the confidence that I have a few weeks to find some form. I’ve never said it like that because to me tournaments are very important, and even more so at this point of the season. It was very tough not being able to play in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, but I have three weeks left until Paris. Unfortunately, this year I have to look at it a little more in that way”.
“You always have to put things into perspective. I’m very happy about how I started the year, although I also have to see the negative side. After five months without playing, with everything I had to do to get to the level that won me three straight tournaments and being in the final of the next one, breaking my rib was quite a blow. But it is what it is. I have to do the daily work as well as I can, valuing any positives that occur and having the humility to understand that, when you come back in the middle of the season, things don’t happen immediately”.