Nadal: “Gioco ora con il freno tirato, l’opposto del mio concetto di sport”

Rafael Nadal played his last match as a tennis player in Barcelona against Alex de Minaur, a tournament that the Spaniard has won 12 times, so much so that the main court is named after him. This tournament has not been easy for Nadal, who is used to fighting for victory and is now forced to find the right balance when it comes to stepping onto the court, in a year where physical problems have been dominant.

After defeating Flavio Cobolli in the first round of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, with the Italian making many unforced errors, Nadal suffered a defeat against Australian de Minaur, a match in which the Spaniard was unable to put up a fight as he usually does. Nadal openly admitted this in an interview with RTVE.

One might have expected Nadal to be wounded by the defeat. However, the Spaniard is clear in analyzing the match and seeing the positive aspects of his time at the Conde de Godo tournament. “The positive thing for me is that I was able to play here once again. A week ago, I thought I might not play in Barcelona again.” Nadal expressed relief at being able to return to the court. “The second positive thing is that I finished the tournament without getting injured. I had to be very careful and attentive at all times.”

Obviously, a 22-time Grand Slam champion misses the opportunity to fight for victory. For a tennis player accustomed to tough and long battles on clay courts, being forced to play while also trying not to get injured is not an ideal situation. Nadal mentioned, “On the contrary, what I regret the most is not being able to play enough to try to win this tournament. Currently, I have to play with caution, but there is no other choice but to try to accept it at all times. It’s not easy: it goes completely against my way of understanding sports. Today, however, it’s what I have to do to give myself opportunities in the coming weeks.”

Regarding the match against de Minaur and the difficulties after the first set, Nadal acknowledged that the game was practically over after losing the first set, with de Minaur playing at a high level. “To be honest, I was playing against a very high-level tennis player who played impeccably and has been performing very well all year. He has taken a step forward in his tennis and career. As for me, I did not deserve much more in this match.”

Nadal was aware that the challenge was over after the first set: “I knew that after losing the first set 7-5, the game was over. In the second set, I had the chance to win some games, but I was not prepared. This is what I discussed the most with my team, that I couldn’t fight in a high-intensity match for two and a half hours. And that’s what I needed after losing the first set.”

Nadal also highlighted the crucial moment where he lost control of the game: “There was a key moment: at 4-3 and 15-30 or 0-30, but I made two mistakes, even though they were errors due to the pressure I was feeling at that moment. I knew I needed that first set to have a chance of winning. In the second set, there was only one vital message in my head: don’t hurt myself.”

The goal for Nadal is not the result but “seeing how my body will adapt to the increased loads.”

So what can we expect from Nadal in the coming weeks? “My goal is, at least for now, to be able to play in tournaments. Then, day by day, I will be able to evaluate if I can really play them, not in terms of results, but in terms of being able to fight for the title, to compete and give it my all. This will determine my days. To see how my body will adapt, how it will tolerate the increased loads that I will give it.”

Nadal’s message is clear: “Certainly, I will give my all and fight to give myself opportunities because in the second round in Barcelona, I was unable to fight as I would have liked in the second set.”