After Rafael Nadal's Mexican Open title in February, he wasn't able to seal the deal on any other crowns. The Indian Wells title was loss to Taylor Fritz in straight sets. A fellow Spaniard, the teen sensation, Carlos Alcaraz had some trouble dealing with the icon at Madrid, but came back to win in 3 thrilling sets.
Later Carlos went on to defeat Novak Djokovic and many other tough competitors. Nadal was still fighting back from injuries but wasn't able to win over the feisty Canadian Denis Shapovalov in Rome's Round of 16 (their first meet at a Masters 1000 level).
It's been a push for Nadal as he travels from tournament to tournament not able to play his very best. "I have a chronic injury which has no treatment...tomorrow I can wake up with more problems and we have to accept it and face it..."
Nadal frankly explained. He has a nagging foot ailment and in March suffered from a rib injury at Indian Wells. The Spaniard also is plagued with a back injury he has had at the beginning of last season. Tennis is a gamble at any means when Nadal gets on the competitive court and hopes that it doesn't get to be a nightmare rather than a dream it used to be.
The tour is heading to the second Grand Slam of the season, Roland Garros with Nadal knowing too well what his present condition is and living of an uncertain future of what his playing could be. He is taking one situation and goal at a time.
All of what he can only do. "First thing that I need to do is to don't have pain to practice, that's it..." Rafa is able to perform many signature strategies and shots, but going up against hard-nose younger opponents puts added stress and strain to his 21-year career body.
"Unfortunately my day-to-day is difficult, honestly..." he's said. The Spaniard cannot remember a day without playing in some level of pain and gets real saying that, "I imagine there will come a time when my head will say 'Enough'
It's for the meantime that he confessed to the Marca media: "I'm not injured, I'm a player living with injury" But the injuries have made the smiling Spaniard not so comfortable at playing his iconic 100% best because on certain days and with specific players it can become a no-brainer.
It can become a struggle to win the simple low level points that was always easiest for him to put away. But despite his physical condition time marches on and moving to the next event if staying in the game is an absolute must.
Nadal's captured 13 of his 17 Roland Garros crowns and lost to Novak Djokovic to a Pandemic-filled season a year ago. The Spaniard is happy to have started the season winning the Australian Open but not feeling well about missing his favorite events at Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
At this point, Rafa Nadal is simply concerned with giving the best effort he can, gaining the most positive result he's able. Nothing is predictable for a Nadal performance but no matter how difficult or brutal he feels on entering Roland Garros, it will be a tough season's end despite competitors or the tournaments.