Rafael Nadal has revealed that during some of the lowest points of his six-month injury layoff last year, he had talks with his team and family about the possibility that he might have to say “goodbye” to tennis.
Following his 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Matteo Berrettini on Friday to reach his sixth Australian Open final, Nadal spoke candidly about the uncertainty surrounding his future before returning to competition. “I’ve been through a lot of challenging moments, many days of hard work without seeing any light there,” said the 35-year-old. “But still at work and still a lot of support from my team and also from my family, no doubt. Lots of conversations with the team, with the family about what could happen or what will happen if things go on like this, thinking maybe this is a chance to say goodbye.”
After losing his French Open title in June, Nadal had to stay out of the tour for the better part of half a year due to a recurrence of a long-term foot injury from which he had suffered since childhood. The Spaniard tried to participate in the Citi Open in Washington in August, but pulled the plug on his season shortly after.
“I haven’t been able to train for a long time,” Nadal said. “Sometimes I’d go out on track and practice for 20 minutes, sometimes 45, sometimes zero, sometimes two hours, but I’ve been very, very rough imagining being in the best-of-five right now. play.”
Asked about how tough the past few months have been, Nadal noted that his struggles cannot be compared to the loss people have suffered around the world during the pandemic. “Of course my months are not difficult at all compared to many families who have lost a lot of people,” he said. “But in terms of personal stuff, yes, because of course every day has been a problem in terms of foot problems.”
Despite returning to compete at the highest level, Nadal insists his foot problems will persist until the end of his career, but in Australia he has been able to manage them and be successful. “The doubts will probably be here for the rest of my career, no doubt, because I have what I have and that’s something we can’t fix. But for me it’s great, and I’m super happy to be able to compete at the level I’m doing for the last three weeks.”
He continued: “Not just about tennis, that’s for sure. It’s surprising for me to be able to play at the level that I’m playing, but just competing again and playing tennis at the high level, against the most important players in the world, for me it’s something incredible, isn’t it?”