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Friday, October 07, 2022

Bruised Nadal decides his future. His legacy is not in danger

PARIS ( Associated Press) — Chronic left foot problems jeopardize Rafael Nadal’s presence at Wimbledon and cast doubt on his future in tennis. Come what may, however, his legacy as one of the sport’s greats is assured.

The help of injections allowed him to come out ahead at the French Open and clinch his 14th clay-court title at Roland Garros, and 22nd Grand Slam, after a resounding 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Casper Ruud in the final. But the Spaniard said that this was an exception.

“I don’t want to put myself in that situation again,” he said, referring to anti-inflammatories. “It can happen once, but it is not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.”

With his 36 years in tow, Nadal took two titles ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the top of the list of men who won the most Grand Slams. However, he assures that this is not what motivates him.

“I am not interested in being the best in history or setting records. I play because I like it. I enjoy tennis and competition,” he stated. “What motivates me is the passion I feel for the sport, living moments that I will carry with me forever. Playing in front of the best audiences in the world, in the best stadiums”.

Therefore, although he would like to continue playing and would love to participate in the Wimbledon tournament that begins in three weeks at the All England Club and which he won twice, he said he will only do so if his body allows it.

Nadal, who came to Paris accompanied by a doctor, will test new treatments over the next week in the hope of finding ways to ease the pain in his foot. If he doesn’t find them, an operation will have to be considered.

“My career has been a priority all my life, but it never outweighed my happiness. And so it will continue to be, ”said the Spaniard. “If I can be happy playing tennis, I will continue to do so. Otherwise, I will dedicate myself to something else.”

One way or another, Nadal’s privileged place in tennis is assured. For his impressive performance on the clay of Roland Garros and for the number of major titles he owns. Nor should we forget his Olympic medals (two gold, one in singles and one in doubles), his five Davis Cups and the time he spent as number one in the world.

The numbers, however, are only part of his legacy. There is also his behavior on the court. He never gave a point for lost or allowed the situations that arise during a match to affect him. He never lowered his arms.

“He showed that when the situation calls for it, he can play very well,” said Ruud, who seemed overwhelmed by playing in a major tournament final and by his rival.

“I saw it on television for the last 16, 17 years. Facing him is something hard and at the same time very pleasant”, said Ruud, 23 years old and who played his first Grand Slam final. “Of course I would have liked to fight more, but one day I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I played with Rafa in Chatrier (the central court of Roland Garros), in the final, and they will surely tell me, ‘what, did you do that? ‘”.

Nadal will now have to decide what is best for him and for his happiness. If he concludes that there is no acceptable solution for his problem, he will move on to something else. And he will have left a huge mark on the sport.

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Howard Fendrich has covered tennis for the Associated Press since 2002. He can be reached at [email protected] It’s also at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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