At least we could see that Rafael Nadal still knew how to play tennis, which was no longer so obvious when reading or listening to some experts and lesser experts. One, two, three or even four losses in a row, his worst streak since he was a teenager. Four minor successes in five games since Wimbledon. It didn’t take long to repeat the well-known little refrain: It’s over, Rafa. Baked. It was rinsed. More to come. It belongs to the past.
Already eliminated, Nadal finished on a high note
This is far from the first time the song was sung out loud. To give just one example, in 2015 it was a final judgment festival, the “worst” season in ages. There is not a single Grand Slam semi-final. He was victorious five times, ending his reign at Roland-Garros. A two-set zero loss against Fabio Fognini at the US Open is unheard of for him. Three “little” titles, in any case, one 500 and two 250 for him. Promised, spit, sworn, we will never see Nadal at the top of world tennis again. We know the rest.
It was over a year ago as well, as he spent the second half of 2021 in the infirmary. As a bonus, Majorca was no longer king of anything, not even the world, as it was dominated by Djokovic at Roland-Garros. We know the rest. Then again at the end of 2022. And it goes on, over and over again…
Objectively, Rafael Nadal is going through a difficult transition. Yes, the game level in recent weeks has been problematic. In Bercy, we even saw him get discouraged at the end of the game when he faced Tommy Paul. He didn’t even bother to collect all his ticks before each point. It was as if a spring had broken in his head. That would be the worst sign: jealousy had left him. Perhaps his body will impose a departure date on him, like his old friend Federer, but we thought he had survived a fatal demoralization. Therefore, what he showed and said during the Masters in Turin is reassuring. He showed that he was willing, although not enough. Off the court, he reiterated how determined he was to do anything to regain his best tennis.
36 years old, well packed. Considering that his body has endured for twenty years, every dark period is in danger of being an end. Ask yourself what could be more normal. But can we at least give him credit for what it is? A champion of a different nature, accustomed to tackling anything. At the very least, the course of Nadal, who has died many times, should encourage humility and prudence.
What is basically this fad, this obsession with fall that has been announced almost (a thousand times)? Out of curiosity to play the fair Cassandra who will eventually be right, being able to say “You see, I told you so” on D-Day? But no matter what, those who take the truth under their arms and think that they are important will be wrong to believe such a thing.
Rafael Nadal owes us nothing. He’s not listening to us, and perhaps he has something to say fervently. After all, he’s won two Grand Slam titles this season that is about to come to an end, and his last Roland-Garros to date dates back just five short months. But all this has long since been forgotten. Think about it, that was five months ago! Five months in this age of the goldfish is a century in which, although they swept away the facts of the previous day, the next day with the blows of certainty could become prehistoric. Goldfish laugh at their own contradictions, which, by definition, are not in their eyes. Nadal will never be able to do it again as he can’t do it now.
In this Roland-Garros 2022, his last Grand Slam title (so far, it may not be the last in absolute terms…) he also beat his rival and defending champion in Paris, Novak Djokovic, in the quarterfinals. This is said to be skewering the legitimacy case, another villain of the time, after Djokovic’s quest for 21st Major at the Australian Open in January, where he was not able to queue for obvious reasons. Illegitimacy cases against Nadal, you had to dare that too. But a goldfish dares anything, that’s how we (also) know it.
Next year Rafael Nadal will be back at the top. Or not. The answer is only there. neither you nor me. The same was true for Federer in 2013 (remember, it would have been better if he had retired by then) or Djokovic as he sought himself between Roland-Garros 2016 and Wimbledon 2018. Even an unconvincing southern summer in January would not have been enough to confirm the Spanish champion’s extinction. If he no longer puts one foot in front of the other in the mud in the spring, it’s time to talk about it again. But we are not there. Let’s face it, indoor autumn has never been her thing, even if we’ve already seen it more convincingly.
By choosing to bury him in the faith of a single quarter, he risks being mocked by a “knowledgeable” champion whose size is inversely proportional to his judgment. Once again. I’m not sure that will stop them though.
Nadal’s impotence, Auger-Aliassime’s composure: the highlight of the match
‘I’m ready to die for this’: Nadal swears he still has fire inside