“I am working as much as I can, and I am doing everything they tell me to every day, and the truth is that right now things are going well, more or less,” Rafael Nadal was widely quoted as saying the other day. “The only thing is that I need a bit more time. We’ll see how things develop in the next few weeks but my priority is to recover well—not quickly, but well.”
I, on the other hand, am working as much as I can, and I am doing everything to try to figure out if this is, as Rafa would have us believe, a significant but utterly conventional interlude of injury and recovery, or—as a part of me instinctively feels—a more textured and complex process that may turn out far differently than anyone, including Nadal himself, might expect.
I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little. And I don’t want to freak out Rafa fans, whose constitutions are delicate enough these days without me causing them anxiety. But nothing—and nobody—stands still. With every passing day, Nadal is a different person, and tennis is a different game. The only thing we really know for sure is that when Nadal finally returns, whether it’s before or, as we’re now being told, possibly after the next Australian Open, things will be different.
Maybe barely different, maybe very different.