• Chris Wilkinson

Nadal must write off 2012

Chris Wilkinson October 2, 2012
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The stark reality for Rafael Nadal fans is that they might not see their man in action again in 2012.

The world No. 4 has not been seen on a tennis court since his shock defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June. He is yet to put a date on his comeback, which is a cause for concern. This is not a one-off injury, this is an ongoing problem that is threatening to derail his career.

It's not the first time he has had to take time out for tendonitis in his knees and when you look at Roger Federer and how fit he is, there seems little hope that Nadal can keep going into his 30s.

"There is no point rushing back if he is not 100 per cent fit - he has got to listen to his body"

Only he knows just how serious the problem is, but I think he would be well advised to write the season off and focus on getting 100 per cent fit in time for the start of the new season, maybe just play a couple of exhibition matches towards the end of the year.

He is clearly not going to play in the Far East and that just leaves two tournaments - the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals. Nadal traditionally doesn't do that well in the back end of the season - he has never won a Masters event after the US Open. There is no longer a week's gap between Paris and London, so that wouldn't suit him either.

The hard courts are the worst surface for his knees, so all in all, the evidence points to Nadal waiting until next season to make his comeback. There is no point rushing back if he is not 100 per cent fit - he has got to listen to his body. It is best to take the time now to recover fully and come back stronger rather than rush back and suffer a recurrence early next year.

As a professional tennis player you travel around the world and spend so much of the year away from family and friends. Nadal has clearly been making the most of his enforced time off and has been posting photos of himself playing golf, relaxing with his family and at the Bernabeu watching Real Madrid.

Rafael Nadal has been making the most of his time off © Rafael Nadal
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The flip side of that is it can be hard for an athlete mentally when you are laid off for so long. Boredom and frustration can set in and it can be really tough to stay positive. However, Nadal has a great team around him to support him. And the Mallorcan lifestyle certainly helps - I'd much rather spend my rehabilitation period on the beach than stuck in the rain in London!

I've said it before, but I think it is even more important than ever for Nadal to get his schedule right. It's all about getting the balance between not overdoing it and keeping up with his rivals. The other three guys - Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - are all playing well at the moment so there is a real danger he could drop off the pace.

But the bottom line is that the hard courts are killing him. He can obviously do nothing about the fact that two of the grand slams are on hard courts, but he can tailor his schedule to best suit his needs. Realistically he could look at playing the clay court swing in South America early in the season - clay is obviously his strongest surface, but more importantly, it puts less strain on his body.

While Nadal is soaking up the sun in Mallorca, Murray returns to action in Tokyo this week, where he is defending his Japan Open title. It will be his first tournament as a grand slam champion and that is a new kind of pressure that he will be required to deal with.

Now he is the US Open champion he will have a target on his back and guys will be fighting even harder to beat him. It will be interesting to see how he copes - it might take him a while to adjust, but Murray is better equipped mentally than he was a year ago. He can't afford to get complacent - he still needs to keep working hard - both in matches and in training.

He has a fair amount of points to defend after winning three titles in the Far East last season, and he is keen to end the year on a high - winning the year-end championships on home soil really would be the icing on the cake of what has been a superb year.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.