Always faithful to tradition, Rafael Nadal enters the conference room with a double jump that allows him to access the plinth from which he converses with the journalists. He gets a standing ovation, reciprocates with a Thank you and as soon as he takes a seat he begins to drink a liter and a half bottle of water which, after half an hour of chatting, only has an inch of liquid left. He speaks Majorcan after days and weeks of speculation and rumours, although he has previously solved the great enigma on the track, during the final ceremony: “I’m going to keep trying”. As far as his left foot allows, that scaphoid that split in half in Estoril in 2004 and left one of the most extraordinary races in the history of sport on the wire, Nadal will continue to compete.
The press conference goes on for 40 minutes and there are only a couple of questions about the final, another about Ruud. “It is appreciated that one is about tennis…”, jokes the Mallorcan, perhaps more excited than happy at this precise moment and who, as he promised on the first day of this last tour of Paris, comments in detail on the current state of the injury congenital problem that has affected him practically since he entered the professional circuit and how he has treated it.
“I can’t keep playing with my foot asleep,” Nadal introduces in English, which he describes with surgical precision. “It’s obvious that I can’t continue playing in the circumstances I’m in, so I’m going to try to find a new solution. Here I have been able to play in extreme conditions, with nerve injections to numb my foot, that’s why I have been able to play. My doctor has put anesthesia on my nerves and that takes away that bad feeling in my foot, but it also carries a risk and can cause other things out there. But, of course, Roland Garros is Roland Garros and I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do something”, continues the man from Manacor, who has 63 titles on clay, followed by the Argentine Guillermo Vilas, with 49.
“A remote blockade has been done, with remote injections that affect the nerves. I’m playing without pain, but with zero feeling; It’s like when they sometimes put you to sleep at the dentist, to give you an idea. Thus, the option has been given, ”he continues later in Spanish; “The injections have gone well for me. Bearing that in mind, now we are going to go home and perform an intervention on both nerves. They are injections with pulsatile radiofrequency, which could take away the sensation [negativa] on the foot; it is about inhibiting the nerve, removing that sensation of pain that is so permanent. Let’s see if the nerve can be left half asleep and have that other more permanent sensation; Even if I leave it with little sensitivity, the goal is to leave it with little pain”.
Nadal, 36 years old and already at the same level as Steffi Graf, also the winner of 22 majors, says that these days he has had “about two injections before each match.” And she doesn’t beat around the bush: “If this treatment works, I’ll continue; if not, I will not continue”. The Spaniard says —the third player to link wins in Australia and Paris, after Jim Courier (1992) and Novak Djokovic (2016)— that he should have a talk with himself and that, depending on how the new method responds and how he feels, will evaluate.
“It is a life approach, to analyze if I am compensated according to what things. An operation probably wouldn’t guarantee it completely… I have to talk to myself very calmly and make a life decision now, decide if it’s worth being unemployed for half a year [como el curso pasado]. But now I can’t answer that. Right now I am not prepared to make a decision like that, ”continues Nadal, who before arriving at Roland Garros weighed and decided to assume the side effects of anesthesia to try to assault the great Frenchman again, but who is no longer willing to continue doing it.
Take risks… or not
“The foot is not worse for what I have done here, but there is a risk, and I do not want to continue assuming it. I had a bullet, I have won the tournament and this will always be in my memory. But my foot is no worse. Now, I have always said that life is above other things. My priority has always been my happiness. If I continue to be happy playing with what I have, I will continue; if not, I won’t, ”she stressed.
Nadal, who also takes anti-inflammatories before jumping onto the court, celebrates that he has managed to isolate himself and concentrate on his tennis. This is how he has reconquered lost territory, in a progressive line as he has advanced rounds and achieved something that only the Swedish Mats Wilander (Roland Garros 1982) and the Swiss Roger Federer (2017 Australian Open) had previously achieved: defeating four rivals of top-10 on the way to the title.
Despite all the bad times and the emotional ravages of the treatment, Nadal says that “the efforts are always worth it because they always get a reward; maybe not outside doors, but personal”. He adds that what he has done “is not heroic” because he has competed “without pain and in good condition.” The problem is, he emphasizes, “mentally accepting the things you have to do to be able to play”, in this case “knowing that it was a limit situation”.
He has done it in the Bois de Boulogne, his kingdom. In his analysis, he remarks that in the final against Ruud his crosscourt backhand was decisive to expand the track and make it much bigger for the Norwegian. And, going back to the injuries, he says that the bet of 2016 (broken wrist, abandonment in Paris) did not work out for him, but that “you have to accept it”. In any case, Nadal looks forward with optimism and is confident that “things will work out.” He lives by “emotions and illusions” and is very aware that continuing to play and succeed at 36 is a gift. The Majorcan has rope and fuel left, in whose dictionary the word surrender does not exist.
Willingness to go to Wimbledon, but starred
Nadal expressed his desire to attend Wimbledon, which this year will be held from June 27 to July 10. Of course, he will travel to London as long as he can recover from the wear and tear of these days on his foot and the situation does not require him to continue playing under anesthesia. “I will go to Wimbledon if my body is ready to go to Wimbledon. It is a tournament that I do not want to miss, nobody wants to miss it. I have experienced great emotions there and I have great respect for the tournament. Yes, I want to be at Wimbledon, of course, but I still can’t give a clear answer about it, ”said the Spaniard in the first instance.
He added: “Wimbledon [conquistado dos veces, 2008 y 2010] It’s a priority, it always has been. If I can play without anti-inflammatories yes, but if not, no. I don’t want to put myself in this situation again. We will see. I’m always a positive guy. We are going to trust and see what happens”.