Following Rafael Nadal's Australian Open final defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka, time has come for the Spaniard to allow his recurring back injury to heal.
The No. 1 seed suffered another injury in the second set after losing the first set to his Swiss opponent, an issue that hampered Nadal's play and, ultimately, his chances of a 14th Grand Slam title to tie with Pete Sampras' record.
Nadal spoke with BBC Sport's Piers Newbery after the defeat, stating that he did not want to retire from the match:
The last thing that I wanted to do was retire. No, I hate to do that, especially in a final.
At the same time, it's tough to see yourself during the whole year, working for a moment like this, and the moment arrives and you feel that you are not able to play at your best.
In an interview with Reuters, Cadena Ser's El Larguero show spoke with Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni, who said the clay-court specialist is allowing just two weeks to recover before taking part in an event in Buenos Aires, starting on Feb 10:
The doctor said it's a tightening of the muscles and a few days rest should be enough. He went into the match after feeling twinges during the week but very minor ones that normally do not affect you at all.
In the second game of the second set he felt a pinch. When I asked him after treatment what was happening he said 'it's over.'
However, this isn't the first time that Nadal has had injury problems, plagued by recurring knee injuries for the past two years. According to the Daily Mail's Mike Dickson, Nadal has a very strict recovery regime to adhere to:
The enabling factors behind a spectacular run of form appear to lie in a combination of hard work, constant rehab, two space age training machines and the use of Plasma Rich Platelet therapy, often known as bloodspinning.
It should be stressed that the latter process, which involves taking blood and then re-injecting it around the knee tendons, is now entirely legal and in widespread use. The latest research, interestingly, suggests one by-product of it is the natural production of performance-enhancing Human Growth Hormone in the body.
Per BBC Sport, former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash saluted Nadal for carrying on with the match and stated his belief that playing against him injured is a daunting task:
Nadal could have easily walked off court but he didn't and it added to the match. It can be hard to beat an injured player, especially an injured Rafa. To beat a Rafa at 60% is not easy. It was a fantastic gutsy effort from both of them.
With the French Open coming up in May—a tournament that Nadal has already won eight times—and his commitments in South America, he is not leaving himself much time to regain fitness.
And with the chasing pack looking to take his top spot in the ATP World Rankings, the time is now for Nadal to take his foot off the gas and chase a clean bill of health to prolong his career.
At 27, Nadal is entering the peak of his career and holding onto top spot, with Novak Djokovic, Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro making up the chasing pack.
Knee and back injuries are the most debilitating for tennis players and ones that cause the greatest risk of an early retirement or long-term injury problems.
Nadal will be casting a keen eye on Roger Federer's 17 career Grand Slam titles, and as he nears 30, he will need to look after himself if he wishes to surpass the Swiss' record.
Four months remain before he is due back on the court as he looks to overtake Federer, and if he is to take this Grand Slam and more in the future, he needs to pick and choose his tournaments; or risk not taking part in any more.
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