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.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms