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Nadal: ATP must protect players' health

ESPN staff
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Rafael Nadal believes hard courts have taken a toll on his own body that will prevent him from playing after his career © Getty Images
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Rafael Nadal has reiterated his belief that the ATP is not doing enough to protect the long-term health of its players by overpopulating the calendar with hard-court events.

The 11-time grand slam champion made his return after an eight-month injury layoff at the VTR Open in Chile, reaching the final of the clay court event only to be stunned by Argentina's Horacio Zeballos in three sets on Sunday.

Speaking at the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo, Nadal said he does not expect major changes from the ATP anytime soon but urged officials to investigate ways of ensuring the well-being of the Tour's players beyond their time in the sport.

"The ATP worries too little about the players," said Nadal, who admitted that his left knee injury is still hampering him. "It should care more for them.

"For future generations it would be good to see a less aggressive tennis life, not only because of what happens during your career, but also because of what happens after your career, about how is your body when your tennis career is over."

Nadal, 26, does not "think it will be possible" for him to be a recreational athlete after his professional career is over such is the toll that the sport has taken on his body, pointing to the hard courts that are "too tough" on players' bodies and led to injury.

Tennis is the only major sport played on cement surfaces like that found at the US Open, Nadal added, and medical staff must play a role in safeguarding the sport's athletes.

"This is not a subject for the players, it's a matter for doctors," he said. "The ATP has to start thinking about ways to lengthen the players' careers. I can't imagine football players playing on cement, I can't imagine any other sport involving aggressive movements such as tennis being played on such aggressive surfaces such as ours. We are the only sport in the world making this mistake and it won't change."

Nadal also railed against the ATP's attempt to strictly enforce the 25-second rule between serves, saying it will not benefit the sport.

"People like to see great rallies, long matches, and for that to happen, the 25 seconds are not enough," he said.

"If the ATP wants a sport which is faster but doesn't take into consideration a lot of strategy or great rallies, then it's right doing this. I think the players in the locker rooms are not very happy with that rule."

Despite his run to the final in Chile, Nadal insists it is too early to start targeting titles after an absence that dated back to his shock second round exit at Wimbledon.

"I need time, I need weeks of matches and practice," said Nadal, who insists his focus is on regaining his rhythm on court. "I'm not prepared to think about titles yet, I'm thinking day-to-day. After so many months without playing it's hard to think about titles."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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