We all know about Rafael Nadal’s great tennis attributes. He’s fast, explosive, intelligent, exuberant, and mentally strong. He’s extremely fit, and contrary to what people think, a very good all-around player.
However, he is also very stubborn. Although this stubbornness to never give up helps him on the tennis court, it harms him off it.
Since 2004, when the young Spaniard greeted us by joining the ATP tour, he has had to go through an injury every year.
Here is a quick list of the Spanish powerhouse's injuries:
In 2004 Nadal missed most of the clay court season, including the French Open, because of a stress fracture in his left ankle. In 2005 he suffered a foot injury that barred him from competing in the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup (now called the World Tour Finals).
The same foot injury prevented him from playing in the 2006 Australian Open. After coming back and playing all the North American hard court tournaments and the spring clay tournaments, the Mallorca native injured his shoulder while playing a quarterfinal match against Lleyton Hewitt at the Artois Championships in London. He was unable to complete the match, which in turn ended his then 26-match winning streak.
During the second half of the 2007 season, the Spanish bull battled a knee injury which he suffered during the Wimbledon final loss to Roger Federer. There were rumors toward the end of the 2007 year that the foot injury that Nadal suffered in 2005 caused long-term damage. Toni Nadal put weight to the rumour when he said that the problem was “serious.” Rafa then denied this claim stating that the story was “totally false.”
In 2008, Nadal retired from the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters after losing the first set 6-1 to Nikolay Davydenko, citing a knee injury. The Spaniard then withdrew from the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup for the second time, announcing that he had tendinitis of the knee. He then withdrew from the Davis Cup final against Argentina.
In the following year after his defeat at Roland Garros, it was confirmed that Nadal was suffering from tendinitis in both of his knees. He then withdrew from the 2009 Wimbledon Championships as the defending champion. Later, at the US Open, he suffered a torn abdomen.
On Friday it was announced that Nadal had pulled out of the Paris Masters due to tendinitis in his left shoulder, the result of training too hard.
In 2006 and 2007 many analysts were talking about how Nadal was punishing his body, and that he had to cut down on the amount of tournaments he enters. In 2009, after Nadal’s epic Australian Open, his uncle Toni pressured Rafa not to enter Rotterdam. Nadal though refused, and ended up getting injured in the final against Murray.
After Nadal’s second Wimbledon this year, he was giving an account on how he always gives 100% when he trains, regardless of what sport he plays. He said that even when he goes to play five on five football (futsal) with his friends in Mallorca, he still has to play 100%.
Nadal has also cited exhaustion many times towards the end of the seasons. Being exhausted does not only mean to feel tired. It means that muscles in the body do not work fluently and at 100%, thus giving the opportunity to your body to get injured easier. Exhaustion also helps to mental relapses, which in turn means that you are more likely to make a mistake and get hurt.
Tennis is not like a team sport. When a player in a team sport gets injured he can be replaced by another player and the show does indeed go on. But in tennis, when one player goes, so do all of his and his fans' chances.
Team sports are a business. All members of the team are a part of a company. Even when a player gets injured he will still get his pay-check at the end of the week. But in Rafael Nadal’s case, he is the company, the business and the employee.
Even though Nadal is playing under the ATP, it is not the latter that provides the Spaniard with all the money and fame. It is the tennis player's hard work and commitment to excellence that makes him who he is.
If Nadal does not start to listen to the people around him and start to take good care of his schedule and workload, he will not be around for long, and sadly in this sport, an athlete and personality like Rafael Nadal cannot be replaced.