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PHOTOS/VIDEO: Rafael Nadal's pre-tournament press conference at Australian Open 2021
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number two Rafa Nadal is still struggling with the back injury that ruled him out of this week’s ATP Cup but is hoping for some improvement before his first-round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The 20-times Grand Slam champion pulled out of Spain’s ATP Cup tie against Australia on Tuesday with a lower back problem and said later in the week he was still far from the level required to play at the year’s first Grand Slam.
Asked about his fitness, 34-year-old told reporters on Sunday: “Not great, obviously, because if not I would have been playing at the ATP Cup,” adding that he had been “suffering” for 15 days.
“I’m doing everything what’s possible to be ready for it. That’s the only thing that I can say. Today, I am still hoping to keep improving and hope to be ready for it.”
Nadal, who has suffered regularly from back injuries throughout his career, said he was not contemplating pulling out of the year’s first Grand Slam.
“I don’t think about not playing,” he added. “The thing is about in which condition I going to start the tournament, no?"
“Is not serious, but the muscle is still tight, so is difficult to play with freedom of movements today. Let’s hope situation keep improving."
“We are doing everything. My physio is here, the doctors here, everybody is helping me in all possible ways.”
Nadal said he sustained the injury during quarantine but was not sure whether the enforced 14 days of isolation in an Adelaide hotel had contributed to his problem.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to think about that. That’s what happened. Normally I’m not a big fan of finding excuses or reasons about why this other thing is happening.”
The Spaniard is scheduled to get his campaign underway on Tuesday with a first-round match against Serbian Laslo Djere.
“I hope to be ready, that’s all,” he said. “I know sometimes things change quickly. I going to keep staying positive and keep doing everything I can.”
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• Some quotes from Rafa in his press conference in Spanish (Translated by Genny SS)
"I have a muscle in the back that gets stiff, especially when serving. It doesn't allow me to do the motion freely & I can't force. Today [Sun], I've practiced the serve after several days [w/o doing it] & I've felt a bit better, tho the muscle got stiff after some minutes.
It's not a serious issue, as I've undergone several tests, but it hasn't improved as much as I'd like. Only thing I can do is to give myself as many chances as possible in every sense. When Tuesday comes, I must be competitive. It's a tough situation but I won't give up anything.
Until 10 days ago, everything was perfect. I had done a good step-by-step pre-season, practicing things I needed to get ready for this season. I felt confident because things were on track. The weeks of training in Adelaide were being really good.
I was feeling strong and with the required energy to face the start of the season. Then, this happened and all the confident feelings have turned into troubles, especially as days are going by.
It's logical to be worried when you see you're close to start one of the most important tournaments of the year & you've been several days with issues. I think I have a good background,as I've worked well during many weeks. If I could play freely & have the chance to win a match, why couldn't the positive feelings be back? But for that I need to feel well. If that's possible and I can go forward, fantastic. If it's not possible, at least I'll go [home] feeling calm after having done everything in my power."
Also mentioned in the article: Rafa first felt the stiffness in his low back 3 days before the exho with Thiem in Adelaide. He played that match to stay true to his commitment with Tennis Australia.
After that, he started a protective plan to try to improve:
- he underwent several tests to rule out having to pull out,
- he didn't play any match at the ATP Cup,
- he decreased intensity in his practice sessions and