So, let’s have some facts, eh? Today, Rafael Nadal dropped a nuclear bombshell on the Olympics build-up as he announcing his withdrawal from the event. His infamous chronic knees are to blame. The signs were there - not only have rumors and talk about his knee injury been swirling around long before Wimbledon even concluded, but it has always been fairly evident that aside from his knees, Nadal’s biggest enemy has been the ticking clock as the Olympics draw ever closer. But even so, considering just a couple of days ago
Benito he was posting pictures of himself doing rehab in the gym with an insanely gleeful smile plastered on his face, the alarm and shock at this turn of events is more than warranted.
Discussions on whether or not Tennis deserves its place in the Olympics have raged on for years now, but regardless of whether tennis as a sport is suited to the competition, there’s no doubt that Nadal himself is. He stands as one of the players (also look towards Venus Williams) who genuinely cherishes and truly understands the significance and honour of being an Olympian. For him, the Olympics is clearly more than the pursuit of nice, shiny medals. He gets it, and in a sport like tennis, not every player does. He called the withdrawal one of the toughest decisions he has ever made and one of the worst days of his tennis career, and it’s not difficult to see why.
But aside from disappointment and sympathy towards Nadal, I’m struggling to understand the point of speculating about much else. People are already collapsing into hysterical wrecks and proclaiming Nadal’s career over, or else pointedly suggesting that the knees must *clearly* be in awful condition for him to withdraw. Perhaps the doomsaying and worrying has some merit, but one thing we do know is that we saw this all before in 2009 and a year later he went on to have the best year of his career. He isn’t the first player to suffer from tendinitis and he won’t be the last. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s something he has managed and will continue to do so.
And finally there’s the case of Mr Federer and people subsequently expecting him to waltz to his first singles Olympic Gold. Despite Nadal standing as the sole (ahem) relevant active player to defeat Federer on grass, the Spaniard’s fairly appalling 21-11 record in three-setters off grass over the past year pull him straight back down to earth. Massive opposition remains in the form of Djokovic and Murray, the Brit holding an exemplary 8-5 record over three sets against Federer over three and Djokovic who will undoubtedly be hungry for revenge after Federer wrote a new chapter into ther rivalry at Wimbledon. I would even venture to suggest that Nadal’s withdrawal is far from being a pivotal or draw-altering.
But while I close my eyes, place fingers in my ears and hum away the blind speculation, others are… not. Namely Uncle Toni who stated that London was the last Nadal’s Olympic opportunity, implying that he will be retired within four years. Not only is writing Nadal off for the next Olympic games as premature as Novak Djokovic when retreating into the shade on a hot day, it’s just, well - to quote Federer - I mean, puh-lease. Are you kidding me?