Rafael Nadal is at it again. The season has not even started, and already there has been trouble with his fitness.
Of course the reason for his fitness problems last week in Doha was just a plain old fever, but the way he handled this uninviting problem is what stands out.
Every year aside from 2010, Nadal has admitted to being fatigued when the US Open came along. The main reason for this problem was because of his cramped-up schedule.
His wrong decisions to over-exert himself during the clay swing always came back to haunt him, and wrong decisions again this year seem to have Nadal fatigued before the first grand slam of the year.
After beating Lacko in the quarterfinals in Doha, Nadal stated:
“I wasn’t physically 100 percent, no? I had fever two days ago. Last night wasn’t perfect, too. So I felt with less power than usual. I feel a little bit tired for the moments…”
So after playing the World Tour Finals and resting for about a week, the Mallorca native went back to training in order to play two exhibition matches with his main rival Roger Federer.
Although the matches were created for a good cause (money from each match went to their respective foundations), playing them did not help defend Nadal’s or Federer’s constant bickering on how the ATP Tour has no offseason.
"It's impossible to be here playing like what I did the last five years, playing a lot of matches and being all the time 100 percent without problems," Nadal said last year in Shanghai.
"It's impossible to play 1st of January and finish 5th of December."
For him to be saying this it means that he understands his body. He acknowledges the fact that he cannot sustain his body in near perfect condition for a whole year without having a sufficient enough break.
Nevertheless, this year, by playing the two exhibition matches, he actually finished the year with Federer later than the ATP full season. To add to this, nobody forced him to play these extra matches.
In Doha the clay-loving Spaniard admitted to not having a holiday between the 2010–2011 seasons. However, he went to Doha playing in both the singles and doubles brackets.
After his match with Lacko, he was asked whether he would be 100 percent fit for his next match. “No. I think I gonna be a little bit tired, but I am here to try my best. For sure my goal is to try to win tomorrow and try to be at my 100 percent.”
He played the resurgent Davydenko in the semifinals where he just avoided a second set bagel. During the match he called for a timeout, where he complained about not having any energy left, and feeling very tired. He stayed on court to finish the match, then went on to play a doubles match later in the day.
Last year Nadal did not play any Davis Cup ties, nor did he pack the clay swing with the Barcelona Banco Sabadell tournament. This year he is planning to play both, meaning that his schedule will again include a busy clay swing.
As I once pointed out in an older article, Rafa is in danger of burning himself out. By not taking it easy in the offseason, and by not pulling out of the Doha tournament, the current No. 1's busy schedule could come back to haunt him.