Nadal’s injuries hurt all of tennis

Sports fans have short memories and are quick to move on, but both Rafael Nadal’s stature and the nature of the injury suffered calls for a moment to pause and consider. What made Nadal’s initial withdrawal, from the Olympics, all the more worrisome was that it had swiftly followed a Wimbledon match he had completed without sustaining any obvious injury. In football, some of the most damaging injuries are those sustained by players for whom there was no obvious external cause – such as an opposition stud or a dangerous tackle. They suggest chronic, deeper-lying structural flaws that cannot be totally overcome by surgery, nor detected until they flare up again, nor calmed without the passage of time. Nadal’s passage has now extended from the Olympics to the Rogers Cup, to Cincinnati and now the US Open. What kind of injury worsens, or simply doesn’t go away even when the player is resting?

His absence was easily forgotten in the heat of Murray-mania during the tournaments at Wimbledon this summer, but will slowly extend a shadow over the ATP the longer he stays away. If Roger Federer continues his excellent form, fans will look for confirmation of the worth of this late-period revival in the form of a contest against his most testing opponent. Andy Murray might initially take a first major on the back of defeating one or both of Federer and Djokovic, but consistently holding sway with every member of the big three will be a challenge denied him in full until the return of its longstanding member. Part of the appeal of the top four players in men’s tennis is the way in which they constantly push each other to new levels of greatness in unfailingly epic encounters, which provides a preferable option to when one player lords it over the rest. Nadal is a vital part of this competitive appeal.

Apart from all that, it is never nice to see a player – particularly one as lodged in the affections of the fans as Nadal – suffer such unplanned changes of direction to their career. Sportsmen take pride in shaping their own destiny, and it would be cruel to see the most hardworking tennis player of all be denied the chance to play out the second half of his career on his terms.

2 thoughts on “Nadal’s injuries hurt all of tennis

  1. Sure this hurts all of tennis, but tennis is hurting its stars. Increasing schedule length, slowing of courts to increase time the ball is in play etc. With the way Nadal plays, he suffers as he simply can not sustain such an effort. Over time athletes pick up niggles and often athletes are playing with some problem of sorts- Nadal’s problem happens to be his knees.

    • Right, and I would rather see athletes playing at the peak of their powers, when fully fit and rested, because I think it raises the quality of the tennis even higher. If that means lesser tournaments to watch, then so be it. Most sports administrators are arrogant enough to believe that their games are immune from overkill, but trust me, if it can happen to the most popular game in football (and given that the PL season now starts as early as mid-August, they’re pushing the envelope a little far already), then it can certainly happen to tennis, cricket and everything else.

      In my opinion, once the US Open is finished, there is no need to extend the season until November with more tournaments and a stab at an honorary major right at the end. It dilutes the value of the most prestigious tournaments and makes it hard for fans to appreciate the significance of a player’s achievement in winning one of the big events.

      If slowing the speed of the courts is yet another commercially-driven tactic, tournament hosts and the ATP really have lost sight of what fans want to see. What fun are four major tournaments with exactly the same style of play, where the regular faces aren’t even made to adjust the way they play at all? And what fun is it to consistently marvel at the incredible retrieving shots Djokovic et all pull off from the back of the court or against opponents at the net, whilst knowing that a faster court would offer a much truer test of their returning ability?

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