Nadal surprises with his analysis of Djokovic’s ambition and what his intimates already knew: he wants to come back and play beyond 2024
Rafael Nadal hadn’t spoken for so long that when he did, he said too many things: that Novak Djokovic is too worried about his place in history and that he dreams of returning to play in 2024… and a few more years.
“Why am I going to tell you now that this is my last year and I have it planned so and so and so? What if it’s not? And if suddenly by magic, well, I don’t believe in magic, but if suddenly the body recovers after a long break like the one I’ve had and I feel strong and energetic to continue? Why am I going to say one thing and then do another? I am cautious, when I know the answer I will say it and I live day by day with the illusion of giving me the opportunity to have the option to decide,” Nadal said during an interview on Monday night on the Movistar + television signal.
Nadal, 37, announced on March 18 in Manacor that he would stop playing until the end of the year to try to let his body recover and regenerate. Even then he had already hinted that perhaps the stars had aligned and he would be able to play for a few more years. But he said it sheepishly, almost dismissing it.
“I’m a positive person, but I’m not delusional. It’s hard for me to think that with the way I’ve been drifting over the years, my body will magically be perfect. My intention is this, what might happen in the future I can’t predict. Possible? Everything is possible in this life. Improbable? It is also improbable”.
Four months later, the Mallorcan is more optimistic: “If my body suddenly recovers after a long break like the one I’ve had and I feel strong and energetic to continue?
A huge question and a huge dream for Nadal, owner of 22 Grand Slam titles, two less than Djokovic, who has just won his 24th at the US Open.
“I’m not frustrated for one simple reason, because I believe that within my possibilities I have done everything possible,” said Nadal to the astonishment of the interviewer, who tells him that if something can not feel him, is frustrated.
And that’s when Nadal adds an analysis that is surprising for its sincerity.
“I think Novak, in that sense, lives it in a more intense way than I have lived it. For him, I think it would have been a bigger frustration not to get it. And maybe that’s why he has achieved it. I think he has had the capacity to take ambition to the maximum. I have been an ambitious person, but with a healthy ambition that has allowed me to see things with perspective and without being frustrated. It’s my way of living and feeling it”.
A Uruguayan viewer, who commented on the interview on social networks, threw in Nadal’s face the proposition that his ambition is “healthier” than that of the Serb: “You injected your foot to keep playing”.
Nadal’s ambition is indeed enormous, and the main explanation for the success that has made him one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.
Juan Mónaco, former world number ten and one of his best friends on the circuit, had warned months ago in an interview with CLAY: “The limit is going to be set by him. I know him a lot, and I think that if he prepares to come back, he prepares to win, he doesn’t prepare to make the quarter-finals. If he comes back and wins, he won’t say goodbye to tennis”.
His uncle and coach, Toni Nadal, told CLAY something similar: “Rafael wants to come back, he wants to recover well. And if he recovers well I think he will want to continue”.
And David Ferrer, former world number three and current captain of the Spanish Davis Cup team, told CLAY that Djokovic is an important factor in the decisions Nadal makes: “He’s definitely a motivation. They’ve both fed off each other. If Rafa feels he is competitive he’s going to want to at least match Djokovic.”
As he did historically in his career, the 14-time Roland Garros champion, sent signals in opposite directions: “The illusion is not to return and win Roland Garros or Australia, that people are not mistaken; I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m not delusional. I am well aware of the difficulties I face, which are several. One is insurmountable, which is my age, and the other is the problems that usually prevent me from training one hundred percent. The combination of the two things makes it very difficult or almost impossible to aspire to some things, but that doesn’t take away my illusion of playing again”.