Tearful Rafa vows to be ready for Monte Carlo
Knee problems have dogged Rafa Nadal for years, they cut short his 2018 season after the US Open in September.
But his forced retirement on Saturday in Indian Wells brought him to tears.
And the year had begun promisingly. Nadal didn’t drop a set in reaching his fifth Australian Open final, where he lost to Djokovic. He’s ranked No. 2 in the world and has a match record of 11-2.
Now he is facing a mighty battle to be ready for the European majors – Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
In the post-announcement press conference on Saturday he battled hard in another sense – to compose himself in order to appear positive as to his future.
“It’s not the moment to complain much. With all this stuff, I still where I am today,” he said.
“I felt more or less OK during the beginning of the season in terms of my knee.”
“Now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.”
Even with all of his injuries, Nadal said he has no intention of giving up playing on hard courts, the surface for two of the four Grand Slam events.
“My goal is to play on all the surfaces,” he said.
And he is adamant he will be ready for Monte Carlo next month.
“I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo,” he said.
Nadal mentioned some “issues” after he’d hobbled through a straight-sets victory over Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals on Thursday, but didn’t go into detail.
Many believe he hoped the niggling injury would either resolve itself or calm enough for him to compete through the week.
But when he warmed up on Saturday he realised he could not.
Federer was warming up on a nearby court. But, while the Swiss legend took a golf cart to the courts, he received a text from Nadal.
The writing was on the wall – or in this case, the cellphone – the 39th meeting just wasn’t going to happen.
“We’ve had so many epic battles that yes, I know that every one that we have now could be our last,” Federer said once then news was out.
“Was this our chance for the last one? I really hope not, and I believe that at the level he’s playing and I’m still going there’s definitely going to be more, but if we stay up high in the rankings it’s a long way to get to each other in the draw.
“It would have been really epic. It’s one of the most beautiful centre courts we have in the world.”
Nadal now plans to return to Spain in a bid to get the injury right.
“I have this since long time ago,” he said. “Some moments are better, some moments are worse.”
Nadal’s withdrawal left tournament officials scrambling to entertain the crowd. Their solution was a doubles exhibition that aligned tournament director Tommy
Haas with John McEnroe against Pete Sampras and Novak Djokovic, and put actor-comedian Jon Lovitz in the umpire’s chair.
For Dominic Thiem, he now has to prepate for Federer in Sunday’s final.
He interestingly reached the semifinals via another walkover, after Gael Monfils withdrew from with a strained left Achilles.
Thiem and Federer have split their four previous meetings, with only one going three sets. Federer won the last time they played at the ATP Finals in London in November.
“It’s always something special to play him,” he said.
Thiem has never won a Masters 1000 title, losing in two previous finals.