Rafael Nadal 'scared' about future as knee injury takes its toll

 

Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal is used to coming here with question marks over his future, but as he prepared to begin his quest for an eighth successive Monte Carlo Masters title, even the king of clay admitted yesterday to being "a little bit scared".

Nadal, the world No 2 who plays his opening match tomorrow, against Jarkko Nieminen, has not won a tournament for 10 months and has lost to Novak Djokovic in seven successive finals. But the reason for the 25-year-old Spaniard's caution is not so much his form as his perennial knee problems. Nadal revealed that he had not practised for a fortnight after an injury to his left knee forced him to withdraw from last month's Miami Masters semi-final against Andy Murray.

"I couldn't move my knee," he said. "I have to try to be patient."

Asked if he found it easy to adapt to playing on clay again, he said: "I don't feel comfortable even today. I need time. I need to spend hours on court, play matches and I need practice. I had to stop after Miami for a long time. I started to practise four days ago, so it's not enough."

While Nadal insisted that dealing with knee problems was "nothing new" for him, he admitted he had been concerned about the outcome of treatment for his latest injury, which involved having an injection to deal with a troublesome tendon behind his left knee.

"I did the treatment two times," he said. "In the past it worked well, but I did this treatment for this new injury before Indian Wells [last month] and it worked well the first couple of days, but afterwards it didn't work well. So I am a little bit scared, but it seems like today I am able to practise with no impediments. I think it needs time to see how good it is, when I play at the top level and when I run without thinking about the knee, when I put all my effort on the knee. But hopefully I am able to practise with the right conditions. That's the most important thing."

Nadal will also be hoping that a return to one of his favourite events will reinvigorate him in the way it has so many times in the past. In six of the last seven years the world No 2 has begun his clay-court season with victory here and gone on to win the French Open.

Two years ago he came to the Monte Carlo Country Club without a title in 11 months and went on to enjoy the greatest clay-court season in modern times, winning all three Masters events on his favourite surface as well as the French Open. Even last year, when Djokovic beat him in clay-court finals in Madrid and Rome, the Spaniard still ended his favourite part of the year with the Monte Carlo and Roland Garros titles.

Nadal insisted that his recent lack of tournament victories did not unduly concern him, pointing out that if he was simply interested in adding to his tally of 46 career titles he would play in more clay-court events outside the normal season.

"My [schedule] for the last few years has been just the most important tournaments of the year, playing against the best players in the world, not always on the most favourable surface for me, so that makes it more difficult to win titles," he said. "I am doing my [schedule] to try to win the most important titles on the tour, to try to be healthy for as long as I can, and to have a longer career."

Nadal also pointed to the number of finals he has reached since winning the 2011 French Open. In particular he has reached the last three Grand Slam finals, losing to Djokovic on each occasion.

Given his current knee problem, it might be wrong to draw too many conclusions if Nadal's extraordinary run of 37 consecutive victories here on the Côte d'Azur were to end this week. However, a triumph for Djokovic at a tournament where he has been a semi-finalist twice and runner-up once in his last three appearances could be another major psychological blow to strike against Nadal. The Serb, who missed this tournament last year, has not lost to the Spaniard since the group stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in 2010.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old was cautious when talking about his own chances.

"Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay," he said. "He's the king of clay, the best tennis player ever to play on this surface. The fact is that Nadal plays his best tennis in Monte Carlo, aside from Paris."

Although this year Djokovic has not made the whirlwind start of 2011, when he won 41 matches before losing to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open, he looked back near his best when he won earlier this month in Miami. He did not drop a set in his six matches.

With a particularly busy summer ahead – the Olympic tournament is sandwiched between Wimbledon and the start of the US hard-court season – Djokovic has been careful not to push himself too hard in the opening months of the year. Having taken a break after winning the Australian Open, he lost in the semi-finals in Dubai and Indian Wells, to Andy Murray and John Isner respectively, before resuming his winning ways. If he meets Nadal in Sunday's final here, it will be a contest to savour.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album