The big news of the week in the tennis world beyond the Roger Federer GOAT discussion, which in my mind was settled Sunday, is talk of Rafael Nadal and his always-ailing knees. At just 23, Nadal’s knees have apparently already turned into muck, and given the alleged rate of their deterioration, in a year he’ll likely be playing in a wheelchair – and probably still winning matches!
Can you wait? I sure can.
I’m already sick of this knee saga. Just as I was sick of hearing about Federer’s mono last year, in fairness I’ll say that I’m already over Nadal’s and his knee tendinitis. Unfortunately, if you are in my boat on this, we are out of luck and taking on water fast because this issue just isn’t going away anytime soon. We are going to hear about it during Wimbledon and especially during the hardcourt summer season right through the US Open. Cripes, might as well get used to it.
Honestly, I almost think Uncle Toni and the rest of the Nadal’s circle of trust are running some sort of interference or smokescreen. When Nadal was stunned by Soderling, I said that day that it was the first time in his career that Rafa had been punched in the mouth – and he was. And I was very curious to see the reaction. Well, this is it: Bad knees.
“I have been playing with pain on my knees for some months now and I simply can’t go on like this,” wrote Nadal on his website. “The pain was limiting certain movements in my body, which affected me mentally as well.”
Clearly the guy does have knee problems, I’m not saying he doesn’t. But for me some things just don’t add up. If he had been suffering for “some months now” as he says, why play Rome, why play Madrid or a full clay schedule that included Monte Carlo and Barcelona when the real “end goals” are the French Open and Wimbledon?
And where was this “limited” movement he speaks of? The Rafa I watched during the clay season and even in Paris two weeks ago appeared to be moving just fine. I recall some concern during his epic tussle with Novak Djokovic in Madrid where he had some treatment on his knee from a trainer, but did he ever call for on-court medical attention during Paris? I don’t think so.
If Nadal wants to internally rationalize the loss by saying he wasn’t psychically and mentally 100% right, he’s free to do so.
But from what I saw Soderling beat Nadal straight up. Forget the knee and forget the bad pink shirt which I’m guessing will never be seen on the Spaniard ever again. The Swede attacked early and attacked often, keeping Rafa on his heals throughout the match. Soderling even knocked Nadal down on his arse on one occasion in the third set, a scene reminiscent of Mike Tyson deliriously trying to shove his mouthpiece back into his mouth after James Buster Douglas dropped him in Tokyo some 20 years ago. (Note: Tyson never recovered from that loss!)
As for the injury itself, it doesn’t seem terribly serious if Rafa’s doctor prescribed just “oral anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy as well as progressive muscular exercises for both quadriceps’s” along with a few weeks of rest. And if that’s really all it takes from him to get healthy again then why didn’t they just skip Barcelona/Rome and sit the kid down for a few weeks in late April, or just skip Madrid and take most of May off?
And why did Rafa pull out of Queen’s citing knee issues when he could have withdrawn by simply saying he was tired or exhausted and no one would have batted an eye. Instead, it almost feels like the Nadal camp wanted to let people know that Rafa’s knees were not 100% for the French Open. Excuse for losing? Just read that Nadal quote again. Hmmm…
But I guess that’s what happens when you get hit for the first time.
Then again, I could be way, way, way off here and maybe Nadal skips Wimbledon because his knees really are that bad of shape. But I bet this knee thing is somewhat overblown and something tells me that he’ll show up a week from Monday at 1pm and he’ll be just fine.
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