This was an unusual season for Rafael Nadal. When he played, he was brilliant; he won five titles – including an incredible 11th Roland Garros trophy – and lost just four matches all year. The trouble was, he barely played; the Spaniard competed in just nine tournaments all year, retired from big matches at the Australian and US Opens and withdrew from or retired during 11 hard-court tournaments. The only one he played through to completion was in Toronto, and he was the champion.
Nadal surrendered his No.1 ranking to the resurgent Novak Djokovic in October but it was an incredible effort to end the season at No.2 given his sparse schedule. He was typically rampant on clay, scooping four titles and building a 26-1 record on the surface. His only loss on clay came in the Madrid quarterfinals to Dominic Thiem; when they met again, in the final in Paris, Nadal allowed the Austrian just eight games in a straight-sets mauling.
The 32-year-old showed signs of much physical wear and tear, succumbing to hip, abdomen and right knee injuries in 2018. He didn’t play a match after the US Open. How he bounces back in 2019 remains to be seen. Yet he has shown an admirable ability to recover from physical setbacks throughout his career, giving his many fans hope that next season – his 19th on the professional circuit – could be another fruitful one.
After 49 matches played in 2018, Nadal was:
“You can’t fight against the age and you can’t fight against the watch. The watch keep going always. If you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here with 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something almost impossible, but here we are.”
– after winning an 11th title at Roland Garros
“Normally I am very critic with myself. (But) I hit great shots. I played aggressive. I missed balls, not too many, but I missed some ones. When you play with that intensity, with that level of risk, that level of passion, sometimes you go over, no? Nothing to complain. I think I played a great match. I have not much more inside me. I give it my best, and that’s it.”
– after falling 10-8 in the fifth set of the Wimbledon semifinals against Novak Djokovic, widely regarded as one of the matches of the season
“I have to think little bit at the longer term. Today, I want to keep playing tennis for a couple of years. And thinking that way, I have to do the logical things, and the logical thing today is not play here (in Paris). And talk about London, the logical thing is don’t have a clear answer right now.”
– after pulling out of the Paris Masters (he would later go on to withdraw from the ATP Finals)
At this stage of his career, Nadal values his down time to rest and recuperate. Whether it be golf, fishing, or time by the water with family, he makes the most of his trips back to his home in Mallorca.
It wasn’t always sunny in Mallorca in 2018. In October, the island was subjected to devastating flash flooding that killed 12 people and forced hundreds to be evacuated from their homes. Nadal admirably took on a role in the recovery efforts.
Three-time Laureus Award winner and tennis icon @RafaelNadal pitches in to help flood victims in the nearby Majorcan town of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar.
Class on and off the court! ???? pic.twitter.com/WXPXOZskVL
— Laureus (@LaureusSport) October 10, 2018
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