By Romi Cvitkovic
NEW YORK, NY (March 4, 2013) – In town to participate in the BNP Paribas Showdown as part of World Tennis Day, Rafael Nadal spoke candidly about his return to the hard court, the “worst part” about his rehabilitation and thoughts on his upcoming schedule. (Full presser gallery at bottom)
Arriving in a room full of media and distinguished guests, including 2013 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees Cliff Drysdale and Charlie Pasarell, Nadal went for a more dressed-down look in a Nike hoodie and cap.
As Nadal began answering questions, I noticed a new demeanor and focus in him. Despite sometimes being overly-critical or even agitated at post-match press conferences, today Nadal smiled more freely and carried himself with an air of pure joy. He just came off of a title-winning week in Acapulco and truly feels “lucky” to be back on a tennis court and playing competitively again, and it translated in his attitude today.
Nadal admitted that the first half of his 2012 season before injury where he won four titles, including Roland Garros were “the best first half of a season in my career … it was difficult that I could not keep playing (because of) my knee.” Those tough days made his return even sweeter as he smiled that he’s “very excited to be back on the Tour. Last week, I started to feel much better in Acapulco. I started to feel free to run for plenty of balls and that’s fantastic for me.”
Nadal will next travel to Indian Wells, CA for the BNP Paribas Open and is eager to take on the competition there for the first time on the hard courts since his return.
“We will see how the knee answers better next week in Indian Wells when you play an official match. That will be a big test for me. Today I know that I can play on clay – that’s a very important thing to know, for me. I will try next week on hard. I think it’s a process. After a long time without playing tennis, it will be a process to adapt mainly to the competition. I hope I will have chances to play a normal calendar as I did in the past years.”
So, just how difficult was the time away from the court for Nadal?
“ When you are at home working every day at the gym with rehabilitation, with the doctors, and you try different treatments, and you see not the best result possible in a short period of time … it’s not easy to accept sometimes … I think was not an easy time, but at the same time, I had the chance to be with my family, friends. I tried to do different things that I usually cannot. It was tough. Every day you work, every day you wake up, every day thinking ‘How will the knee be today? Is the knee still bad?’ … I didn’t know when I would be back, that was the toughest part.”
Nadal also re-iterated that it’s difficult to plan his schedule much in advance these days any more, as he takes everything “day by day” gauging the pain and feel in his knee. With the BNP Paribas Open starting this coming week for Nadal, it will be a true test to see just what his knee can withstand.