Jimmy Connors explains 'worst thing' Rafael Nadal is facing amid latest injury woes

Connors shares thoughts on Nadal's injury woes and Monte Carlo Masters withdrawal.

by Dzevad Mesic
Jimmy Connors explains 'worst thing' Rafael Nadal is facing amid latest injury woes
© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

American tennis icon Jimmy Connors says it is clear that Rafael Nadal badly wants to play but is also aware that playing while hurt or not fully ready would do him more damage than good because that condition would prevent him from being anywhere close to his best. 

What was expected to be Nadal's big 2024 comeback and a great farewell, has been a very rough and challenging time for the Spaniard but also his fans. After sustaining a tear in his hip muscle at the Brisbane International, the 37-year-old Spaniard has been sidelined. 

After skipping the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami to focus on the clay season, Nadal also failed to recover in time for this week's Monte Carlo Masters. In his message from Thursday, Nadal sounded shattered and said his body wasn't allowing him to play in the Principality. 

Connors, a former eight-time Grand Slam champion, feels for Nadal and understands perfectly where the Spaniard is coming as the American tennis legend says playing hurt is "the worst thing."

"Playing hurt is no fun, especially as you get older. If you're not careful, you can even do more damage. Rafa's been around long enough, he knows himself better than anybody and nobody should make that decision but him," Connors said on the Advantage Connors podcast. 

"There's nothing worse than playing hurt because that takes away everything. It takes away your movement, it takes away the way you hit your shots and it takes away your attitude toward the way you wanna play. You're always hedging, you’re not fully confident in your health and your movement."

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Connors on Nadal refusing to quit but evidently suffering

Since winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the 2022 Australian Open and French Open, it has been a major struggle for Nadal, who hasn't played much since then. The last 16 months have been especially tough for the 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has taken part in just three events since the start of 2023. 

In his statements and messages throughout 2023, it was clear that Nadal was having a very rough time because of his situation. Now that the former world No. 1 is again going through a similar situation despite surgically addressing his hip issue last year, it is becoming pretty evident that all of this is becoming painful for him. 

Addressing the Nadal situation, Connors suggests great champions sometimes have a hard time accepting that it may be time to retire as there is always the desire to keep pushing as long as possible. 

"I know how difficult it is to let go. No matter what, you try to do anything to stay around and do what you've done at the top of the game for so long and been so successful and you know, sometimes, it’s tough to let go," Connors explained. 

"With the success he has... There's no looking back and saying 'I wish I would've done something.' I'm sure he's done everything he's ever gotten in the game to do and you know, taking care of your health I guess comes down to making that decision."

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

When could Nadal possibly play again?

For this clay season, Nadal's plan was to play in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, then the Masters events in Madrid and Rome, and then conclude his clay swing at the French Open.

Now that Nadal is skipping Monte Carlo, the best scenario would see him returning to action in Barcelona - which starts on April 15th - and then playing four tournaments during the clay season. 

After withdrawing from Monte Carlo, Nadal shared a video on Friday which showed him practicing on clay. The Spaniard will now have an additional week of practice but still there no guarantees that he will be able to make his long-awaited comeback on the clay courts in Barcelona. 

On Friday, Toni Nadal was asked about the chances of his nephew competing in the two upcoming Spanish clay events.

“I don’t know what he will do regarding Barcelona and Madrid. I haven’t been in his sports environment for years. When we see each other I ask him how it’s going, but I don’t ask him about his plans,” Toni Nadal told EFE.

“I hope he can play because it is necessary to have a good Roland Garros. A few days ago I saw him and asked him. He told me that it was not going well and I told him the same thing as always: ‘Let’s not complain, it has gone very well for us’ because we thought that his career would end in 2011 or 2012.”

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Alex Caparros

In Barcelona, Nadal is a record 12-time champion.

Jimmy Connors Rafael Nadal Monte Carlo Masters