August 2, 2021

Why Rafael Nadal does without Wimbledon and the Olympics

Wimbledon, that means: the dream place of every tennis player, the place of longing for all top professionals, the heart of every season. Regardless of whether you feel right at home on the lawn or think the blades of grass are more suitable for cows like Ivan Lendl, who was permanently frustrated at Wimbledon in the past: Nobody escapes the reputation of the most traditional tournament so quickly. Especially not Rafael Nadal.

Thomas Klemm

Editor in the “Money & More” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Even as a toddler on Mallorca, Uncle Toni told him that Wimbledon was the largest of all tennis tournaments. Rafael Nadal began his autobiography by describing the silence on Center Court at Wimbledon. Later on, it comes down to the overwhelming joy when he first triumphed on London’s Church Road in 2008. The legendary five-set win against Roger Federer was followed by a second triumph in 2010.

Not as fit as usual

There won’t be a third time for Rafael Nadal, at least not this year. On Thursday, the Spaniard announced on social networks that he will not participate in the most important lawn tournament, which will start a week from Monday, as well as the Olympic Games in Tokyo afterwards.

The past clay court season had put a lot of strain on him, writes Nadal, who was not as fit as usual in Roland Garros’ semi-final defeat against Novak Djokovic last week. “It’s not an easy decision, but after listening to my body and talking to my team about it, I understand it is the right decision.”

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In his long professional career, the 35-year-old has had to forego Wimbledon three times, mainly because of his sensitive tendons. Now, for the first time, he does not compete voluntarily. He follows Federer, who is almost five years older than him, and who started to sort out a major tournament in 2016 if it doesn’t fit into his title planning.

The Swiss did not travel to Roland Garros three times in a row to take it easy and to prepare for Wimbledon as best as possible. In 2017 he was successful with it and won his eighth title. Now Nadal is also re-modeling, for the same reason as Federer once did: “To extend my career and continue what makes me happy.”

Paris organizer jointly responsible

At the beginning of the year, the world number three had taken a break after the Australian Open because the bad back forced him to do so. He returned in mid-April, won the clay court tournaments in Barcelona and Rome, and finally missed his 14th Paris triumph.

Nadal makes no secret of the fact that the organizers of Roland Garros are jointly responsible for his withdrawal. The Parisians had postponed their tournament a week and thus incurred the annoyance of players and directors of other tournaments. The break between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is just two weeks this year. Which is why it was not surprising that a number of top players canceled the German lawn tournaments in Stuttgart and especially Berlin.

Just like Rafael Nadal, the Japanese Naomi Osaka saves herself from living in a Wimbledon bubble in London. The world number two had their agents briefly announced that they were taking time out “to spend time with their friends and family”. Osaka, who had known in Paris that she occasionally suffered from depression, wants to compete at the Olympics. The Austrian Dominic Thiem does it the other way around, he plays in Wimbledon and gives himself the trip to Tokyo in order to defend his title at the US Open afterwards.