Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal puts self before serve
The French Open's gruelling matches, perhaps, took a toll on the joints. Rafa is 35 and believes he needs time to recuperate and give the body a rest
Sometimes winning is not everything for athletes who are also mortals. Records can wait in the larger pursuit of longevity. Rafael Nadal had the chance to become the man with the most Grand Slam wins. Wimbledon beckoned for his 21st, but he chose to ‘listen to his body’.
I should be forgiven if I am to believe that he wasn’t in the best frame of mind after his heart-breaking semifinal loss to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
According to his statement, the mind was strong (it was implied) but the body (and limbs) was weak or unwilling to serve and volley on grass and on the hardcourts in Japan.
The French Open’s long and gruelling matches, perhaps, took a toll on the joints. Rafa is 35 and believes he needs time to recuperate and give the body a rest.
As tennis players age, the limbs need careful tending — the knees, shoulders and elbows in particular. Women’s champion Naomi Osaka walked out of the French Open to work on her mental strength and resilience. Controversy tailed her, but she did it for the self; call her selfish if you wish.
Roger Federer threw in the towel in the middle of the French Open to save his best for the lawns of Wimbledon. Now with Rafa exiting Wimbledon, a pattern is emerging among top players who are putting their physical and mental well-being before the records and applause that await their every move, shot or serve.
The crowds have been curtailed and, in some cases missing during big tournaments. The fun is ebbing in modern sport. The pandemic has made it more virtual and, even meaningless to both the practitioners and spectators.
The bubble that covered major tournaments may have just burst. Sport may never be the same again as an individualistic streak sets in. I shall call it self before serve.
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