"Continue with the recovery sessions at home!"
More daybreak swimming in the sea for Rafa.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm really feeling this now. I mean really. I'm even finding it hard to keep this blog going, and I know this is Rafa's Daily Dose - but I'm about to make it a bit more about mine.
So whilst I struggle to bring posts on a daily basis, it is amazing that out there in the internet world, everybody BUT Rafa's fans seem to be able to fill page after page on forums and countless column inches discussing him. The man hasn't played for 102 days now, and yet any topic with Rafa in it, is what creates the mass of comment. Someone said that tennis is doing fine without him, and that he hasn't been missed. Really? Then why do you talk about no-one else, when you're not even a fan?
Now this might seem like an odd analogy, but if you think about it, I think you'll know where I'm coming from. You see, a friend of mine once said about our lovely, late Princess Diana, that it didn't really matter whether you liked her or loathed her ... everyone seemed to have an opinion about her. And that's what I think about Rafa.
And Rafa has talked about his difficulty of the impact that hardcourts have on him, that two of the four Majors are played on them, and six of the nine Masters. And in this sea of "opinion" out there about him, I've seen plenty of comment that the Tour is just fine as it is, and why should it be changed just to suit Rafa ... that you can't change the whole framework of it just to suit one player. And I've also seen comment that if hardcourts are such a problem to him, then he should drop 2-3 hardcourt tournaments from his schedule. And its laughable that the people who make such comments consider themselves to be "knowledgeable" about the game. Really? And what about the ATP rules? I mean people that parp on so much about Rafa breaking the 25 second rule then seem to think its so easy for him to break the mandatory rule of the tournaments that he HAS to play.
You see, I always knew in my head that it is mandatory for the top 30 players to play all the Slams, and it is mandatory that they play the 8 Masters - with only Monte Carlo being the one that is optional - unless they satisfy the criteria to be able to drop others. So how can Rafa suddenly drop Masters on hardcourts without consequence? He can't. He would be zero pointed if he did, and he would lose his right to be a "considered" player for automatic entry. And let's not forget as well that it is also MANDATORY to play four 500 series events, one of which MUST be played after the US Open. So how does Rafa tackle this? Well ... since he stupidly played Murray on one leg in Rotterdam 2009, he hasn't played any early 500 series. He hasn't played Dubai since 2008. He wouldn't take up the option of not playing Monte Carlo - and why would he? He's the 8-time Champion on its famous clay court and it also counts towards his 500 series mandatory requirement. Its a pity that the ATP doesn't say that any one of the Masters 1000s can be optional, rather than stipulating that its Monte Carlo ... but there you go.
He's often criticised for playing Barcelona in a packed clay court series, but if he dropped it, where would he satisfy that 500 series requirement? On another hardcourt, that's where. And he usually drags himself off to Asia to play some 500 series there after the US Open ... because he has to. I'm not exactly sure where Rafa satisfies the requirement for a 4th one, but I'm kind of thinking that his Davis Cup appearances might do that for him. I don't have the inclination to check right now.
Rafa has quite often said that the ranking isn't the be all and end all for him. I believe him, but I also believe that in his slightly younger days and during his stellar 2008, it mattered a lot. Because of his circumstances in 2009, I don't think he cried too much sleep over losing that particular accolade, and I also think that it mattered more to him to win again in 2010, rather than chasing that No. 1 spot. But winning as he did in 2010 meant doing the same in 2011 to maintain it ... that and the ATP rules of having to show up to all of those Masters and the Slams.
So that was then and this is now. He's currently ranked 4th. I think that Rafa Nadal just wants to get back playing competitively on a tennis court again and now more than ever, I don't think he gives a fig about ranking points or the No. 1 spot. So that being the case, would he even dare to make up his own schedule for 2013? I mean, as I've said, the knowledgeable forum posters out there seem to think its in his gift to drop 2-3 hardcourt tournaments. And if he did choose his own schedule and said hang the consequences, do you think for one minute that Rafa would receive no criticism whatsoever for flounting ATP rules by not playing mandatory Masters? Of course he would. Even more column inches would be generated in condemnation of who did he think he was? When other players have to adhere to ATP mandatory tournament rules, why does this guy think he's above all that? They would want him hung out to dry. Peter Bodo would have a field day.
But do you know what? I'd love him to try it. There's been much mooted about him playing on the South American clay in early Spring. I mean, you can't have escaped how this region is desperate to be promoted more as a serious tennis location. Old Uncle Feds is off to Brazil to play in exhos in December whilst loose lips Uncle Toni has been giving lectures in the region. They would love it in Argentina or Brazil if Rafa Nadal turned up for their tournaments, wouldn't they? But considering the current ATP mandatory requirements, how could he? How could Rafa possibly play in Argentina or Brazil or Mexico ... and then do the two hardcourt Masters of Indian Wells and Miami with just a one week lay off before the clay court and then the grass seasons kick in? He would be adding to his schedule ... not taking away from it.
But as I said ... I would love him to try. I'd love him to do his warm up in Doha and then the Australian Open. To then go to the South American clay courts, then Indian Wells (as it seems to suit him better), not take part in Miami but take the extra time off to rest up before the European clay court season starts before he then moves onto the grass. To then take extra time off after Wimbledon by not doing one of either Canada/Cincy before participating in the US Open and then moving onto Asia with nothing afterwards until the World Tour Finals. Now let's see. That would mean him playing the 4 Slams, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, either Canada/Cincy and Shanghai. You see, I have him dropping 3 mandatory hardcourt Masters but as he's eligible to lose one anyway, then he only actually drops two. But wouldn't that be better for Rafa? And if he did all that, then he would be breaking the rules and would be zero pointed and maybe his ranking would suffer, but if it aided Rafa's longevity would it matter? Let them zero point him, he'd survive. It doesn't matter about him losing his "considered player" status for a tournament ... cos he wouldn't want to play there anyway.
I know I am literally rambling now ... but if he took the advice of the keyboard sooth sayers and knowledgeable ones out there and dropped 2-3 hardcourt tournaments he could do, couldn't he? Without one single word of recrimination about tailoring a tennis schedule to suit his body and longevity? Ha! As if.
However much Rafa was scorned for his ideas about radical changes to the tennis tour, he always knew that nothing would be implemented to make one iota of difference to him in his playing career ... he did think, however, that it might benefit a future generation. And I fear nothing will change for him when he comes back. I remember Bodo stating that he should be thankful that 3 of the 9 Masters were on clay. What a clown. If he dropped the non-mandatory Monte Carlo then he would have to play 6 hardcourt ones and take on board another hardcourt 500 series tournament. There's no real solutions for Rafa's dilemma. He won't fight the system. He won't take on board the suggestion I've made above because he'll do what he can to stay within the rules. I don't think Rafa is that revolutionary.
And for us ... well, we will just have to remain thankful for the joy he's brought us to date ... for the joy he will no doubt bring us in some tournaments in the future, and to just savour every moment that remains of the very special player that is ... Rafael Nadal.
102 days and counting Rafa ... it really doesn't matter.