US Open: Does Rafael Nadal feel invincible in the Grand Slam?  “Retiring is worse than losing”

US Open: Does Rafael Nadal feel invincible in the Grand Slam? “Retiring is worse than losing”

US Open: Does Rafael Nadal feel invincible in the Grand Slam?  “Retiring is worse than losing”

Fourteen months. More than a year has passed and since his semi-final defeat against Novak Djokovic in the 2021 edition of Roland-Garros that Rafael Nadal has not known defeat in a Grand Slam tournament. By winning against Australian host and 198th player in the world Rinky Hijikata (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3) in the 1st round of the US Open on the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, Mallorca recorded the their 20th consecutive win in a Major game. At least regularly. His retirement before the Wimbledon semifinal therefore prevents him from being in the running for the Grand Slam calendar in New York, as his rival Novak Djokovic was last year.
It is on this paradox that the Majorcan insisted in a press conference after his victorious debut. It’s not because he has always won the best of five sets in 2022 that he feels invincible in this format. “I haven’t lost a game, but I haven’t won the top three (Major, ed) neither of them, therefore … in a certain sense, it is even more difficult not to have been able to appear on the pitch. Giving up or giving up is more difficult than losing in my opinion. In sports it’s about winning or losing, but not giving up. When you give up, you can’t play, compete. The resulting feeling is much worse than losing a game“, He reflected.

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Rafael Nadal at the US Open 2022

Credit: Getty Images

A prolific and paradoxical season

And for good reason. Despite his 35 wins by 4 small losses and his four titles (Melbourne, Australian Open, Acapulco, Roland-Garros), Nadal’s season has not been a long and calm river. The Majorcan broke a rib first at the end of the Indian Wells tournament in March, then a few days after his recovery in May, it was his left foot that re-emerged on the side of Roma. Before an abdominal tear forced him to give up on the All England Club lawn …

In the meantime, however, he has found a way to triumph a 14th time at Roland-Garros, and this with a sleepy foot. Obviously the Spaniard has many certainties in the game of him, and even more in three winning sets. But he knows that the injury remains a possibility, which allows him to take a step back and not be too sure of himself. It would have been surprising, it is true, the opposite, given his character.

In a way, too, it’s part of my career. On the one hand I am having a fantastic season in terms of results, but on the other hand it is a difficult season because I have overcome foot injuries, a stress fracture in the rib and then the abdominal tear. . A lot has happened in the past six and a half months. And at the same time, we come back from a difficult time (the Covid pandemic and its consequences: cessation of competitions, quarantines, behind closed doors, repeated tests, ed), so we can’t really complain. Despite everything I’ve been through, I’ve won tournaments“, He summed up again, philosopher.

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Three hours of tennis in the first round, I’ll need the rest

It is also thanks to this state of mind and these past tests that his truncated preparation for this US Open is not prohibitive. With his character forged by the fight, Nadal perhaps also needed this first round won in three hours to start his fortnight. With his experience and his many comebacks after physical problems, the person concerned did not say anything else.

When you come back from injury, the first game is so important because after playing it you start to feel better. I lost it (in Cincinnati against Borna Coric, ed) having many opportunities to win it. And then my opponent won the tournament … So that’s pretty good for me in a way, isn’t it? Three hours of tennis will probably help me. I know what I need to do better in the days to come. It’s always the same story: not everything is perfect when you come back from injury. You have to be humble enough to go through this process and accept that you have to fight, that you will suffer. “

The method is proven: it is not at 36 that the zebra’s stripes are changed. And in a way, Nadal sent a message to the competition: a little rusty at first, now he’s okay in his tournament. After the stress of his return to Flushing three years after his last participation, he has finally made his mark like this match point with one of his classics: the forehand pass from the long line. In New York he hasn’t lost regularly for six years (victory in 2018, abandonment in 2018, victory in 2019, package in 2020 and 2021) and the series would be extended.

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