Nadal Injures Wimbledon Chances at Exo

Posted on June 24, 2006

By Richard Vach, Senior Writer

Rafael Nadal has put his 2006 Wimbledon campaign in jeopardy by playing an exhibition this week rather than resting the injured shoulder that forced him to pull out of The Stella Artois Championships last week at Queen's.

The Spanish 20-year-old is a neophyte when it comes to grasscourt play, but has apparently become a veteran at the exhibition cash-grab, playing with injury one week before tennis' biggest event of the year.

While Nadal has expressed his reverence for Wimbledon and one day raising the trophy at the All England Club, his true feelings on his chances this year were expressed in his decision-making this week -- could you see him playing an exhibition the week before the French if he were injured?

"I pulled out (of Queen's) as a precaution after I started to feel some pain, but now I have overcome the problem," Nadal told the Spanish newspaper AS after announcing he would play the exhibition.

The transition from clay to grass is sudden, but Nadal seemed to take it well, beating two opponents then winning the first set off former Wimbledon champ Lleyton Hewitt before retiring at Queen's.

"All I am thinking about now is playing at Wimbledon again," said Nadal, again post-Queen's but pre-exhibition. "I have a week left to prepare myself well."

It was miraculous that an injury that forced him to retire on the verge of beating Hewitt and advancing to the semifinals at Queen's was days later completely healed. Nadal was scheduled to play Jarkko Nieminen and Mark Philippoussis this week, and Friday pulled out of one of the matches with -- a foot injury?

On Saturday Nadal said -- surprise, surprise -- the shoulder problem which was "overcome," is now not fully healed.

"It's okay, I can practice, I can play," Nadal said Saturday. "I will see but for now I am playing without pain."

Pain, no pain, pain, no pain. Which is it? Newsflash Rafa: sometimes the absence of pain isn't the sole indicator as to an injury being healed.

You've got to think playing the exhibition this week was hopefully just a really poor decision from the Nadal camp rather than a money-grab. I mean, the kid lives with his parents, he's saving rent right there. And like some Peanuts character he wears the same pair of pants most of the time. That, and he's also made around $6 million in prize money alone the last few years.

The grasscourts are playing particularly hard this year. As he showed in Queen's, it won't be such a surprise to see Nadal hanging with the top grasscourt players this year, especially after he was dealt a cushy road in Friday's Wimbledon draw ceremony.

Only Nadal, his coach/uncle Toni and their medical team can explain why the world No. 2 enters the grounds of the All England Club with an injured wing, playing on when he had almost 1-1/2 weeks to recuperate. It looked like Rafa had learned his lesson overplaying in 2005 from the foot injury, you wouldn't think he now needs to learn that deflecting fuzzy yellow bombs skidding off the grass is not conducive to healing a bad shoulder.

Richard Vach is a senior writer for who can currently be seen on The Tennis Channel's "Tennis Insiders: Super Insiders" episodes, and was recently awarded "Best Hard News" story for 2005 by the United States Tennis Writers Association. You can belittle him at