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Lots of ifs, but Nadal leaves door open to one more Roland-Garros



Lots of ifs, but Nadal leaves door open to one more Roland-Garros

There was no video tribute on the big screens, as there had been in Madrid. Roland-Garros learned its lesson from Rome, where Nadal was off the court before anyone could even ask him what his plans were. Instead, organisers let Nadal speak, which he did eloquently, and then he left the court to more applause. As Nadal said later in Spanish: “I don’t need a tribute today. I don’t have this level of ego. They can do it in the year to come.”

Wiggle room is there

If it is the last time he plays at Roland-Garros, then he’s fine with it. But he left enough wiggle room for us all to believe that he may be back one more time.

There are, of course, more ifs than ever. If he can stay fit, if he can maintain his motivation, if he still believes he can do more, then there may be more to come. He’s focused on the Olympics, which begin in two months’ time, but he will know more in due course.

“I am a simple guy in all ways, no,” he told reporters later. “For me, as I said always, for me the feeling of coming back home with the personal satisfaction to do all what’s in my hands to make the things work well, give myself everything, that’s the only way that I understand my life.

“That’s why I am not saying I am retiring today. At the end, it’s about not having the feeling in one year or one year and a half that I didn’t give myself a chance, a real chance, because immediately that I started to become a little bit more healthier, I stop.

“So in terms what’s driving me, what’s the force behind driving me, I mean, as I said, I’m a simple guy. I enjoy what I do. You know, I am passionate about sport, I am I am passionate about competition. I like to practice, I like to play tennis. I’m in a different moment of my personal life too, traveling with my son, wife, you know. I am enjoying these moments that will not come back.

“So if I keep enjoying doing what I am doing and I feel myself competitive and healthy enough to enjoy, I want to keep going for a while. I don’t know for how long, but I want to keep going for a while, because they are having fun, I am having fun, and I need to see, I need to give myself a little bit longer chances to see if my level is growing and my body is holding, and then let’s make a decision. Give me two months ’til Olympics and then let’s see if I am able to keep going or I say, okay, guys, it’s more than enough. Let’s see.”

Nadal’s level was there

Mats Wilander, the three-time champion at Roland-Garros and one of Eurosport’s commentators for the event again this year, said he felt Nadal would have beaten 90 percent of the field today. It was his bad luck that he was drawn to face an in-form Zverev, who picked up where he left off in winning the Rome title and coped impressively with the occasion to play outstanding tennis.

Nadal knows he had his chances and for the first time since he started this latest comeback, he felt fewer limitations in his movement, if any. That was evident as he raced around the court once more. Had he taken more than two of his 11 break point chances and had he managed to serve out the second set at 5-4, who knows what might have happened.

That, no doubt, will give Nadal encouragement and by the time the Olympics rolls around, if he can get more matches under his belt and more miles in his legs, he may be ready to do something extra-special.

“To hold your level at this amount of energy, this amount of concentration, you need to be playing often,” he said. “This time comparing to the other times that I was coming back from injuries, I came back from the lowest position possible, you know, in terms of everything, no? Physical performance, confidence, pain. I think most of the times when I was coming back from injuries, I was able to be healthy since the beginning. That was not the case.

“So I felt my body healthy, as I said, before the tournament. That was the first week that I start feeling that I can move without limitations. That’s why I was able to build a better level, to practice well against every player. But as I said, the normal thinking was not enough one week to be ready to win these kind of matches.”

The biggest if, of course, will be if Nadal can get through the coming months without any injury, or at least a significant injury that would mean the end of his career for sure. It’s a tall order, given his injury history and the fact that at 37, almost 38, it’s even harder to recover from niggles and more serious pain.


But there’s something about Nadal that makes him enjoy the fight. No one enjoys pain, but he seems to enjoy coming out the other side.

“I cannot tell you if I will be or not will be (healthy) in one month and a half, because, you know, my body have been a jungle for two years,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect. You know, I wake up one day and I found a snake biting me. Another day a tiger.

“Have been a big fight with all the things that I went through, no? But the dynamic is positive the last few weeks, no? So I felt ready. I mean, I felt ready. I think tomorrow I will be ready to play again if I have to. But I will not have to.”

He may not have to, but in his words and his gestures, there seems a will to go on. He knows that if he can escape any more big issues in the coming months, he can pick and choose his tournaments. There are enough clay-court events all over the world, all year round, that he could stick to his favourite surface if he so chooses.

Nadal has come aa long way since Barcelona, a long way since Madrid and Rome. Imagine a fully-fit, fully motivated Nadal , with matches under his belt, starting one more European clay-court season in Monte-Carlo next year, with eyes on Roland-Garros. It may seem unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

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