Rafael Nadal happy to have both knees working
After a long fightback from injury, Spaniard philosophical about his grass-court chances
Rafael Nadal begins a hazardous path towards a third Wimbledon title today just happy to have arrived at the grass-court event with both knees intact.
Almost a year after suffering one of the worst defeats of his career, by Czech Lukas Rosol, Nadal ventured back into the All England Club after claiming the French Open title, just as he did 12 months ago.
The difference this time is that his body appears to have paid a far smaller price to take his eighth Roland Garros title than it did to chalk up number seven last year.
Asked to look back to his five-set defeat by Rosol last year, Nadal admitted it was a mistake even to turn up in London last time around.
"I was not ready to play here. That's the real thing. I play with an infiltration [pain-killing injection] from the first day," Nadal, 27 and seeded fifth this year, said after a practice session.
"Last year I played here because it's a tournament that I love. I tried my best.
"But after Roland Garros my knee was not there any more. After here I was not able to compete in one more tournament during the rest of the season.
"That's tennis and that's the sport. You lose, you win. That's part of the game.
"But that experience for me last year was too much. I suffered too much.
"If you are in the final rounds and if you have to protect or play with an infiltration, it's fine. But playing with an infiltration from the first day doesn't exist. Wimbledon was not a good decision for me."
Since returning from that debilitating injury to his left knee in February, Nadal, who has a 43-2 winning record since his return, has claimed seven titles from the nine tournaments he has contested.
The heavy schedule was why the winner of 12 grand slam events made the decision to skip a grass-court tune-up in Halle, Germany, and enjoy a few more days in the Mallorcan sunshine.
"You cannot forget the tennis when you have Wimbledon in two weeks. It's impossible. But I stopped for a few days," Nadal said. "This time of year in Mallorca it's great as we have a little time to enjoy the sea.
"Not playing a tournament before here always makes it a little bit tougher because you really play with the real feelings only when you are playing matches."
It is all systems go now though as Nadal tries to find his touch on grass. Being seeded in line with his world ranking of five means he could have to beat defending champion Roger Federer, world No 2 Andy Murray and top seed Novak Djokovic in successive matches.
After what happened last year though, Nadal is not even looking that far ahead and has no complaints about the draw.
"I didn't play a lot on grass the last couple of years, so I really take care about myself about the first round. I don't think about the other things," said Nadal, who plays Belgium's Steve Darcis today.
"My view is if I arrive to the quarter-finals is because I will be ready. But for me, it's going to be very tough to be there."