By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Rafael Nadal is back. How long have his fans and supporters been waiting to hear those words? A very long 222 days.
Time is a great healer, or so we are told. The Spaniard may have been back for less than two weeks, but in that time he has reached the singles and doubles final at Viña del Mar and has been crowned champion in São Paolo.
Today he won his 51st ATP Tour title and 37th on clay, but is Rafa back at his very best after a great two weeks of his comeback? I doubt it, but give him time.
‘Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.’ – Abraham Lincoln
Taking time out from the ATP Tour to recuperate and recover has been necessary for the 11-time Grand Slam champion to ensure his knee heals and to prevent further injury. Undoubtedly his rhythm and feel for the ball is not at its best, but at least he is back on the courts competing again and without taking the time to recover, he may have made his injuries worse.
He may have ‘lost’ seven months on Tour, but in doing so it’s possible he has lengthened his time competing and that is the most valuable thing.
‘It’s better to do the right thing slowly than the wrong thing quickly.’ – Peter Turla
Nadal has won his first title in eight months and has received a mix bag of press about his return. He has been honest that he is not 100% and still feels some occasional discomfort in his knee. Whilst playing at the two South American tournaments, he revealed that he has struggled with his movement and timing on the ball, but after months of not playing, that is natural.
The Spaniard will not be playing in Buenos Aires next week and this is a sensible decision. It will give him an opportunity to assess his performance over the last two weeks, evaluate how he is feeling physically and relax mentally after two weeks of interrogation about his knee and level of play. Taking things slowly now may create better results in the future.
‘All the flowers of all of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.’ – Chinese Proverb
The South American swing of the Tour is a good test for Nadal. He may not be playing against the top 5 players, but match practice is more vital. Clay is his favourite surface and one that is the least likely to cause further injury to his knee. Participating and winning at these tournaments are small stepping stones towards his bigger goals – winning against the best and adding further Grand Slams to his outstanding list of achievements.
Not being able to do the one thing you love always has the ability to make you realise how much you miss it. Have the last two weeks planted the seeds for future success for the King of Clay? I believe so, but only time will tell…