In the wee hours of the morning, at least for those of us in North America who were, for the most part, still asleep (except for those recovering from the very late finish that saw John Isner lose another five-setter this season in a Grand Slam – all his Grand Slam defeats this season were in five sets), Rafael Nadal’s team published an official release containing fairly bad news: the Spaniard will not play the Davis Cup semi-finals against the United States (which we already knew) and will miss another two months of activity.
In other words, it’s quite unlikely we will see Rafael Nadal on a court again in 2012.
Here is the official release, which you can find in both English and Spanish here:
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal will not play in the next 2 months and will stop to rest and recover his knee. Among other things he won´t be able to be at the disposal of the Spanish Davis Cup captain for the semifinals tie against the USA.
Rafa has partial tear of the patella tendon at the distal pole of the patella plus an inflammation of the Hoffa’s fat pad of his left knee.
Since the diagnosis of that tear, Rafa has been receiving medical treatment consisting on specific medication, physical therapy and a progressive program of rehabilitation and muscular potentiation.
For Rafa Nadal “I have missed the Olympics and the US Open in the last few weeks, tow of the most important tournaments of the year and that I really wanted to play. I really want to be back competing and enjoying the tennis tour, but I have many years in front of me and my knee needs some rest. I will be back when I have no pain and able to compete with guarantee.
I feel better after the meeting with my doctors and happy knowing that the evolution of the past weeks has been positive and surgery has been avoided. I will continue to work with the plan my doctors have established to be able to compete as soon as possible in the right conditions.
I would also like to thanks all for the support I am receiving these days.”
Another hard blow
Rafael Nadal has played his last match at Wimbledon, when he was shockingly defeated by Lukas Rosol in the second round. Since then, he has not played a match and had to withdraw from all tournaments, including the Olympics.
This last bout of injury is yet another hard blow for the Spaniard, who’s had a career marred by injuries, mostly to his knees, but who also had issues with his foot in the past,among other physical problems.
However, it’s the first time since he is at the top of the game that he is out for such a long period of time. In 2009, he was out for two months due to recurring knee tendinitis.
In 2010, he missed a little over a month, again due to a knee injury, but came back strong to achieve the “Clay Slam” and, later in the year, complete his Career Golden Slam.
Nadal also had issues with a foot injury last season, which started in Wimbledon and made his participation in Montreal a bit doubtful. In the end, he was able to finish the season without too many problems.
Since 2010, Nadal is regularly undergoing treatments of platelet rich plasma injections (PRP) to his knees to help alleviate the pain he is feeling and help reducing the inflammation caused by the tendinitis.
Until next year?
According to the statement, Rafa Nadal will miss another two months to recover from this last bout of injury, giving time for the partially torn tendon to heal, and for the knee to support constant effort again, all without a surgery the Nadal camp wanted to avoid and has, so far, managed to do without.
This calendar brings us to the beginning of November, so about the time of the Paris Masters 1000, the ATP World Tour Finals and, if Spain gets there, to the Davis Cup finals.
Would Nadal miss about five months to get back on the surface that is the least favourable to his body? Doubtful.
My personal guess would be that he will not play until next year, take time to heal as completely as can be managed, and get back with his knee in the best shape possible… in 2013.
Changes in his game?
Will Rafa make changes in his game to reduce the burden on his knees when he comes back? I sincerely doubt it.
His game style, his constant grinding, the great efforts he makes in each of his matches, are what made him the player he is, and I personally don’t think he will change this for anything.
However, something that he and his team may, hopefully, consider, would be a change in his calendar. If he wants to preserve his body for a few more years, perhaps play more on clay and less on hard courts would be the thing to do.
For instance, he could only play the mandatory events on hard, and play on clay in South America next season before the Masters 1000 of Indian Wells and Miami. (We will see for 2014, if the changes to the calendar are voted, which would put the Golden Swing a string of non-mandatory tournaments in December.)
The best bet, in my mind, would be for Nadal to manage his calendar a little like Roger Federer has been doing for most of his career, not playing more than the mandatory minimum of events allowed by the ATP, taking long breaks to rest and recover, on top of avoiding most of the non mandatory events on hard courts.
Then perhaps, that way, Rafael Nadal will be able to enjoy a longer tennis career, and tennis fans will be able to enjoy Rafael Nadal’s tennis a little longer.