Photo: Diario de Mallorca
(AP) - If it weren’t for a pandemic-caused postponement, the French Open would have been in Week 2 now, and Rafael Nadal might still have been in contention for a 20th Grand Slam title. Instead, he’s home in Spain, practicing lightly — and wondering along with everyone else in tennis whether the next Grand Slam tournament, the U.S. Open, will be held.
And if it is, would he play?
“If you (ask) me today, today I will say, ‘No,’” Nadal said with a shake of his head during a video conference call with The Associated Press and other wire services Thursday.
“In a couple of months? I don’t know. Hopefully, ‘Yes,’” he continued. “But we need to wait probably until we have more clear information about how the virus evolves and how the situation is going to be in New York in a couple of months. Because, of course, New York has been one of the places that have been very strongly hit by the virus. So let’s see.”
Nadal thinks there are two key requirements for the U.S. Open to happen — and for tennis to resume anywhere: assurances about being protected from the coronavirus and having everyone be able to fly internationally.
“We can’t come back until the situation is completely safe enough in terms of (health),” he said, “and fair enough in terms of all the players from every single (country) can travel to the tournaments under safe circumstances to compete.”
Tennis, like most sports, has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ATP and WTA tours are suspended at least until late July. The French Open’s start was pushed back from May until September. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time in 75 years.
A decision about the U.S. Open is expected within weeks; the tournament's main draw is scheduled to begin in New York on Aug. 31.
The U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for pro tennis, Stacey Allaster, told the AP on Saturday that contingency plans include providing charter flights from around the world for players and requiring proof of negative virus tests before travel.
“I really believe we need to be patient, be responsible,” Nadal said, “and we need to (be) calm and do the things the right way.”
Nadal, who turned 34 on Wednesday, said he didn’t touch a racket for more than two months before recently resuming training in a less-intense way than normal and “not testing my body.”
“I am going very slow, step by step, not playing every single day and not practicing much,” he said.
Usually at this time of year, he is exerting himself on the red clay of Roland Garros, where he has won a record 12 of his 19 major championships.
He’s neither optimistic nor pessimistic right now about whether the French Open can be played later in 2020.
“I miss playing tennis. I miss playing the tournament that I love the most,” Nadal said. “But at the same time, my mind is not thinking about that. My mind is focused on trying to recover the normal life. The first thing we have to do is recover the normal.”
Full Interview (AUDIO)
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(Eurosport) - "The key, of course, is to find a medicine that helps us to be sure we can travel and compete without being scared of having the virus and bringing back the virus home. My feeling is we need to wait a little bit more."
"As you can imagine, I need to take things step by step," he said. "I just try to avoid injuries and increase the amount of work every single week. I'm not practising every single day, I'm just practising a couple of days a week.
"I don't even feel in my mind like defending champion [at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows]. I just feel myself like coming back from zero and we start again and that's it. No, is not like a normal situation that I feel myself I have to defend this, I have to defend the other thing.
"Everybody is suffering; there's a lot of people losing lives. My mind is not thinking about if I have to play the US Open or I don't have to play the US Open [or if] I have to play Roland Garros. I just trying to enjoy my personal life a little bit, just trying to do the right things today.
"I need a plan, but today everything is difficult to predict so I don't want to stress myself. I don't want to put any pressure on myself. When we have the clear information, I am sure that with the team we are going to be able to find a solution."
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(Reuters) - Ordinarily Rafa Nadal would likely be closing in on a 13th French Open title this week. Instead, he is home in Mallorca trying to make sense of a world that feels anything but normal.
Tennis is on hold until at least the start of August because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while there have been positive noises about the prospects of the U.S. Open taking place, followed by the French Open, Nadal served a dose of reality.
Speaking via Zoom to tennis media, the day after his 34th birthday, Nadal was asked his thoughts of playing at the U.S. Open, of which he is reigning champion.
“If you asked me today if I want to travel today to New York to play a tennis tournament, I will say: no, I will not,” the world number two told reporters. “In a couple of months, I don’t know. Hopefully yes.
“We need to wait probably until we have more information about how the virus evolves, how the situation’s going to be. New York has been one of the places that has been hit most strongly by the virus.”
When tennis returns, it will most likely be without fans.
“I hate the idea, honestly. But if that’s the only way, why not? That’s my position. I don’t understand tennis without the energy of the crowd, without the passion a full stadium brings.”
While still in the grip of a pandemic, the U.S. is also experiencing outrage and protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody.
“I am of course worried to see all these disasters happening on the streets,” Nadal said. “Violence and pandemics like this today create a difficult climate, a difficult atmosphere for the world. It’s important to stay calm, to respect everyone, to live together in peace.”
While Nadal is missing his Roland Garros stomping ground, he says there are more important things.
“I miss playing the tournaments that I like. At the same time I’m not thinking about that. First we must recover normal life, recover the freedom in terms of be able to enjoy our personal lives, then try to organise our professional lives.”
Nadal thinks tennis faces a tough challenge to restart, especially with some regions seeing rising COVID-19 death rates.
“We can’t come back until the situation is completely safe and players from every single part (of the world) can travel to the tournaments under safe circumstances to compete,” he said.
“From my point of view if we would have a vaccine by December I would say that it wouldn’t make any sense to go back to play tennis now, I don’t think its worth it to take the risks.
“But if they say we will won’t have it until two years, then we need to find ways to go back to some kind of normality because the world and sport can’t stop for so long.”
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(AFP) - Rafael Nadal insisted on Thursday tennis “cannot resume until the situation is completely safe” and if the US Open was being played this week, he wouldn’t take part.
World No 2 Nadal, who captured a fourth US Open and 19th major in New York last year, said the coronavirus pandemic still casts huge doubts over the tennis calendar which has been suspended since mid-March.
“We cannot resume until the situation is completely safe and fair in terms of health in that all players, wherever they come from, can travel and play tournaments in safe conditions,” Nadal told reporters in a video conference call.
“If you told me to play the US Open (scheduled for main draw start on August 31) today, I would say ‘no’.
“In a few months, I don’t know. I hope so. We have to wait for people to return to normal life. And when it does, wait to see how the virus evolves.
“It’s very difficult for me to separate what the world is experiencing from my point of view on tennis, that’s why I was very pessimistic a few weeks ago.”
The ATP and WTA schedules have been on ice since March with action not set to resume until the end of July at the earliest.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War while the French Open has been shifted from May/June to September/October.
In normal times, the Roland Garros event would have been deep into its second week by now with Nadal expected to win the Paris trophy for the 13th time.
However, for Nadal, there are far more complex and significant matters to consider even if he could have been within touching distance of Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Major titles.
“In my mind, if the whole world is suffering, if a lot of people are dying because of this pandemic, we cannot imagine organising a huge sporting event with lots of people from around the world,” said Nadal, who turned 34 on Wednesday.
“It would not be realistic. In my opinion, this was the wrong message to send a few weeks ago. It is true that the situation is a little less negative now.
“Is there a possibility (that the season will resume)? Yes. Am I very optimistic? No, because I cannot predict what will happen in the coming months.
“But my position has not changed: we must show responsibility, we must first be sure that the situation is sufficiently safe, and after of course, try to restart the circuit, when we can see clearly.”
The US Open remains on the schedule but there are still doubts over whether or not it will take place with New York being the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis in the United States.
The tournament at Flushing Meadows, as well as the rearranged Roland Garros, could be staged behind closed doors in an effort to reduce the risk of virus infection.
In 2019, the US Open attracted a record crowd of almost 740,000 to its sprawling Billie Jean King Tennis Centre in New York.
The French Open last year brought in 520,000 paying customers.
“Honestly, I hate the idea (of playing behind closed doors), but if it’s the only solution why not?,” added Nadal.
As far as Roland Garros is concerned, Nadal appreciates the conditions under which he must defend his title in a Paris autumn will be very different to those he is used to in May and June in the French capital.
“It changes everything. It changes the preparation, the weather will probably be different. I’m used to playing it at another time and having a different schedule.
“But if that’s what is going to happen, I will have to adapt, like everyone else. If it is finally possible to play Roland Garros, I will try to prepare myself as best as possible to be very competitive.”