Energy and a lot of money: Rafael Nadal doesn’t think like he did before
Rafael Nadal’s words from eleven years ago are evidence of a change. Or perhaps a contradiction.
Back then, at the age of 25, the Spaniard complained, day in, day out, that the calendar did not give him enough time to disconnect and spend time with his family, friends and regenerate his body.
The Spaniard also called for a two-season scoring system.
“I’ve been on the tour for nine years, but it feels like 100. I have that feeling because it’s too much every year, every week,” he said at the time.
The style of his game, very physical and with long, hard-worked points, is above all the reason that has led him in several years to reach the last months of the season exhausted. One of the explanations, also, why he has never been able to triumph in the ATP Finals.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since those sentences. Eleven more seasons being champion of Grand Slams, Masters 1000 and many other tournaments. Injuries, travels, the creation of his academy in Manacor, marriage to Mery Perelló, his lifelong partner. And the last important event in his history: the birth of his son Rafael, six weeks before embarking on a ten-day tour of six Latin American countries.
Today, for the 22-time major winner, the roughness of the ATP circuit is no longer an issue he complains about.
More from the Nadal of 2011: “I can never train or try to improve in the off-season. It’s terrible. Because it would be nice to have a month and a half to say: ‘Come on, I’m going to try to play this way for a month without the pressure of having to compete in two weeks'”.
In the past decade the calendar was shortened and although for the 25-year-old Nadal was not enough, the 36-year-old, in the midst of an exhibition tour, says he values such an instance to grab a kind of feeling that, he says, the tour does not give him.
“I’m looking forward to play in front of people with whom I hardly ever play, a public with whom we have a very close relationship because of the language, and that always has a very special meaning for me. The fact that I have played so little I think it motivates me even more to be here, to be able to share with my teammates. In Latin America, sport is experienced in a very special way. Whenever I’ve come to this part of the world, I’ve always had very good memories and a great boost of energy,” said Nadal right after his arrival to Chile.
The Spaniard played nine matches after Wimbledon, so this time he did not finish the year exhausted. “The season for me was not exhausting. It was, yes, mentally speaking, because of the injuries, but in terms of matches it was a very light season. I’m not tired, not at all,” he added.
The tour of South America and Mexico gives Nadal entertaining experiences that the tour does not have: a visit to the Iguazu Falls, a mixed doubles with Gabriela Sabatini at his side, and another with Gustavo Fernandez, wheelchair tennis star. Press conferences in historic city squares, mini tennis in metro stations. Activities that come with a very juicy economic reward.
“For less than 10 million dollars, he wouldn’t come to this tour,” said Argentine businessman Lisandro Borges, the same man who brought the World Padel Tour to South America. Borges negotiated with Carlos Costa, Nadal’s manager, to take the Spaniard to several Latin American cities. A series of setbacks scuttled that possibility, he told “Clarín”. Finally, Borges sued Costa for signing two contracts at the same time. Spanish media outlet “Relevo” confirmed with the new promoters that Nadal’s fee is ten million dollars, as Borges said.
Nadal is one of the most successful tennis players in history and has accumulated more than 130 million dollars before tax, just in prize money. On this exhibition tour he collected a similar amount to what it would take to win all four Grand Slams in a single season.
The times when Nadal sent harsh messages to Roger Federer through the press, mired in the argument over whether or not to reduce the demands of the season, are material for the books. Ten years ago, the relationship between the Spaniard and the Swiss looked broken.
“I disagree with him. It’s very easy to say I don’t say anything, everything is positive and I look like a ‘gentleman’ and let the others get burned. But that’s not the way it is either. We each have our own opinion and maybe he likes the tour. I like it too and I think it’s better than most sports, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better and that the things that are wrong should be changed,” Nadal then explained: “Ending your career with pain everywhere in your body is not positive. Maybe he finishes his career like a rose because he has a privileged physique, but neither Murray, nor Djokovic or I will end up with no pain”.
Nadal says that the exhibition tour at the close of 2022 gives him the rhythm of matches he needs to face a 2023 where he will bet more than ever on major titles, his main sporting ambition. The exhibitions, it seems, no longer take him away the time to rest.
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