Rafael Nadal: How Withdrawal from the Olympics Could Help Him Win the US Open

Jeremy EcksteinFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2012

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  Rafael Nadal of Spain, the 2010 U.S. Open Champion poses with the trophy in Times Square on September 14, 2010 in New York City  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for ATP)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal certainly did not want to withdraw from playing tennis in the 2012 Olympics. Nadal is not a bystander. He is the defending gold medalist in men’s singles, and the chosen flag bearer for Spain.

Nadal stated via the Associated Press that "This is one of the saddest days of my career as one of my biggest ambitions, that of being Spain's flag bearer in the opening ceremony of the games in London, cannot be."

This was not a tactical move simply to rest for the hard courts season and the U.S. Open. Nadal’s competitive itch will burn as he watches Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and other ATP players battle for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a gold medal on Wimbledon’s grass.

Imagine you’re Nadal. It’s just not the same kicking back with your friends as you watch the Olympics on HD, munch potato chips and olives and discuss the what-ifs to competing on the world’s stage where you once dominated.


Dear Rafa,

Yes, it’s been a grass season to forget, but it’s time to wrap your knees in ice and look forward to the summer’s hellish hard courts.

Forget about the Olympics. Don’t worry about those who write your obituary. Opportunity often shines in the darkest regions of despair, and it may illuminate your path to another US Open title.

You’ve navigated through injuries several times, so look back for inspiration, but also look forward for the perspiration and mental resolve you’ve always shown in becoming a champion.


Heal Thyself

Perhaps no tennis player has taxed his body more than you have. You’ve pushed it past the outer limits of endurance and demanded your senses to ignore the pain. Certainly you are aware of this price, as stated in your book Rafa, written with John Carlin (p. 10-11):

"I play through pain much of the time, but I think all elite sports people do….I’ve had to push and mold my body to adapt it to cope with the repetitive muscular stress that tennis forces on you…."

"The rest of us just have to learn to live with pain, and long break from the game, because a foot, a shoulder, or a leg has sent a cry for help to the brain, asking it to stop."

Rafa, your athletic conditioning is a quandary faced by distance runners. For all of their heroics, they cannot always peak for optimum times in their races. They must back off their Spartan-like regimen with calculated “step-back weeks” and “step-back months.”

Your time off will allow you to build up and peak again. This can be necessary for your knees and other untold nagging injuries that would continue to reemerge without rest. You are not a machine, so proper maintenance and rest will help you drive for another Slam title.


You Can Go Home Again

Your extra time in Majorca will mend more than physical ailments. Spiritual renewal is best nourished in the roots of your professionalism. This is the base to your values where life and tennis can merge into simple patterns to enhance your return.

Your special affinity with family will allow you to soak in their warmth and support beneath the Spanish sun.

Yes, it won’t be enough to dust off your trophies. You could grow soft watching too much soccer or enjoying savory cooking. Steer away from the Sirens of easiness and rub your soul in clay.


Back to the Lab Again

Maybe you and Uncle Toni can get back to his laboratory, pull out some DVDs and review your 2010 recipe for the U.S. Open title. Certainly you will have to hit flatter serves. You must also cross the Rubicon of baseline tennis to hit the ball earlier and more offensively.

Above all, eschew the mental grind of the ATP tour. Your mind needs as much rest and re-dedication as your body. Seek and hold onto your passion and confidence.

You’ve worked 20 years with Uncle Toni. You’ll both find a sense of sanctuary in togetherness. After all, he may be the GCOAT (Greatest Coach of All Time).


Know Thyself

A tennis career has a limited shelf life. You’ve never lacked motivation, but injuries and tragedies are a reminder of our mortality. Even mighty Achilles was felled by one arrow.

You can appreciate that there are only so many moments you get to achieve your life’s ambitions. You will be stronger.

You will stare in the mirror of your efforts and reflect on the price you must pay.

Time passes quickly, Rafa. You’ve delighted millions of fans with your fighting spirit and with some of the greatest achievements in tennis history.

There are millions who wish you success, and there are some getting ready to see you for the first time ever.

Make it your best effort yet.


Tennis Fan


Click here to read about Rafa's thoughts on Wimbledon and Olympics

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