by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – You win some. You lose some.
If you’re Rafael Nadal, you win a lot.
And, yes, even he loses.
But that shouldn’t alarm anyone. It definitely does not concern him.
“Everybody have defeats in important matches, no? I don’t understand that like a ‘low moments,’ because the world of tennis and the sport of tennis is a sport that almost every week you lose, even if you are so good,” the Spanish tennis icon said.
“It’s obvious that you have periods of your career that if you are so good, then you lose less, but every week there is only one winner. So you need to accept that every time that you start the tournament. The normal thing is that you going to lose later or soon.”
Dealing with injuries also doesn’t panic Nadal, the winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.
Competing at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, the 30-year-old is playing his first ATP World Tour match since May.
“In terms of injuries, the world of tennis is a sport that brings your body a little bit to the limit. It’s true that we are playing longer now than before,” he said. “At the same time, it’s true that we are playing longer, too, because the players are coming inside the tour later than before, too, no?
“So we play on aggressive surfaces. Not many sports that play in such a crazy surface like hard courts. So most of the tour today is playing on hard. That’s, obviously, so crazy for the body. You need to accept that if you are not lucky, you’re going to have injuries, and you need to be prepared for that.”
For Nadal, it’s not how you fall. It is how he gets back up.
“It’s obvious that during my career I had a lot of injuries that give me less possibilities to be in the right level for a lot of the important tournaments in my career,” he said. “But I always have been very positive about the recovers, and I always have been positive – I am a positive person.”
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy.
Having to withdraw because of a left wrist injury from this year’s French Open – where he has dominated, winning the title an astonishing nine times – was particularly difficult.
“Paris this year, for sure, was a very tough moment because I was ready, I think, for anything,” the King of Clay said. “I was playing great. But the things happens, and you need to accept and you need to continue. That’s what I did.”
As he recuperated at his home in Mallorca, Nadal’s wrist was immobilized for nearly six weeks.
“I couldn’t do nothing at all, anything at all. Then I started to move a little bit,” he recalled. “Obviously, I did conservative treatment, no? Just weight and some therapy with the physio and all the things that I could do to try accelerate a little bit the process.
“But was not an easy injury, and still bothers me a little bit.”
Fortunately, however, his wrist has responded well, even as he recently competed at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he teamed with Marc López and won the men’s doubles gold medal.
“Looks like after a marathon for me in Olympics that the wrist resisted, so that’s a great news for me,” Nadal said.
“Without practicing for two months and a half, I was able to arrive to Olympics and compete at the highest level possible. That’s great news. I played with a lot of passion, and I worked a lot on the gym, not in the tennis court. That helped me to be fit.”
The winner of the singles gold medal in 2008, he stressed tennis should continue to be included in the Olympic Games.
The sport was a part of the inaugural event in 1896, but was dropped after the 1924 Olympics. A demonstration sport in 1968 and 1984, it returned as a full medal contest in 1988.
“Tennis today is a very important part of the Olympic Games. I don’t understand why we should not be in the Olympic Games,” Nadal said. “I think Olympics is the closer thing, in my opinion, to a Grand Slam for a tennis player.
“I think for the Olympic Games is important to have the tennis, and for the sport of tennis is very important to be in the Olympics.”
But, he added, there should be a few more days for all the tennis activities – the mixed, the singles and the doubles competitions – to be held.
Why come to Cincinnati so soon after the Rio Games?
“I didn’t play for two months and a half,” Nadal answered matter-of-factly.
Then, after pausing for a moment, he continued: “I would love to be in Toronto, Olympics, Cincinnati and U.S. Open. That’s going to be my schedule if I feel that my wrist was ready to play in Toronto, but wrist was not ready to play there.
“Cincinnati is Masters 1000. It’s a big event. Even if I am not arriving here with the best possibilities because I played 23 hours in seven days and my body is a little bit tired, it’s obvious that’s going to be tough. But I am here to try my best, and I am here to play at the highest level that I could. So I going to try my best.”
Nadal won the Cincinnati championship in 2013. In all, he has garnered 69 ATP World Tour singles titles, including 28 at Masters 1000 events.
So far this year, he has been victorious at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he won a record eight successive titles between 2005 and 2012.
While nine Grand Slam tournaments have been held since Nadal last took a bite of the French Open trophy in 2014, he is not seeking any kind of validation at the upcoming U.S. Open.
“I don’t need a strong result there to be to have self-confidence. I know I was ready this year to have a strong results in Grand Slams. I get injury. I was unlucky,” he said.
“But I feel competitive again. I feel with the right motivation. I don’t have any more the feelings I had last year. It’s something that don’t worries me much, no?
“It’s obvious that nobody wins Grand Slams forever, even Federer that have won more than nobody. It’s already a few years that he’s not winning.
“And in this moment of my career, the most important thing is enjoy and be happy doing what I am doing. I believe that I going to keep having chances to win Grand Slams in the future if I am healthy. I have the right confidence that that can happen.”