Passion pushing defiant Nadal in 2019

Published by Alex Sharp

Rafael Nadal
With injuries a constant demon, the 17-time Grand Slam champion is still adamant he can keep competing for the top titles

Unfortunately for sports fans across the globe, the popular Rafael Nadal has had to contend with a multitude of injuries throughout his glittering career. Last year was no exception.

Time on the sidelines restricted the 17-time Grand Slam champion to just nine events in 2018, but the Spaniard is in Brisbane hoping to spark his 2019 campaign into life.

Despite his ailments, Nadal still lifted five titles last season, including a record-extending 11th Roland Garros trophy. The 32-year-old believes further silverware success is within his grasp in 2019, and beyond.

“I really believe that I have a lot of tennis to play in my career, and I really feel that my body is not going worse every year,” stated Nadal. “Step by step. That’s the feeling.”

It is certainly a case of step by step for Nadal following ankle surgery in November. That setback followed injury-related retirements at two of 2018’s four Grand Slam events.

The Spaniard pulled out in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic last January. That hip injury ruled him out of action until Davis Cup in April.

Fast forward to New York and Nadal’s troublesome knees prevented him completing his US Open semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro in September.

However, Nadal is optimistic of a prolonged career and is grateful that he’s still among the upper echelons of the game.

“It was not difficult to keep going. It was a tough year in terms of injuries but it was a great year in terms of tennis level,” he said.

“Almost every week that I was on court I was fighting for titles so in terms of levels of tennis it was easy to hold a passion because every week I was playing well.

“That is part of sport at the highest level, it is very demanding. So, it will be not fair if I only talk about the injuries, because I had the chance to create a lot of opportunities to play in front of the best crowds of the world and to achieve much more than what I have dreamed.”

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The 2009 Australian Open champion is eager to dismiss talk of regaining the No.1 ranking, preferring to focus on his health and wellbeing.

“I will not follow the No.1 (ranking) because it’s not my main goal. If I play like I played last year, that I played so well all the tournaments that I played and at the end I have a chance, fantastic,” he said.

“Of course, I prefer to be No.1 than be No.2 and I prefer to be No.2 than No.5. That’s obvious.

“My only goal really is to keep doing the things that makes me happy, and today play tennis makes me happy, and I want to do it the better way possible and as long as possible.”

For Nadal the rehabilitation from surgery has once again been a period requiring patience.

“I don’t want to do mistakes in terms of playing without being 100 percent,” continued Nadal, who opens his 2019 against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Thursday night.

“The only thing that I don’t want to do is suffer more than what I did last year because if you do years in a row, like beginning of last year or the end of last year, that mentally kills you.”

The days of playing pain free have vanished, but Nadal is focusing on heading into battle on court without any limitations.

“I had some troubles through my career, but even like this I was able to find always a way to be competitive and to hold a good ranking to keep fighting for the things that made me wake up every morning with the love and passion for what I am doing,” he said.

“I have competed at the highest level since 2004-05, I don’t pretend to play without pain. The only thing I pretend [is] to play without limitation and that’s the main goal. I’m going to try and make that happen as long as possible.”

Nadal playing without limitations is a daunting prospect for the rest of the tour.

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