A year ago Nadal was not only absent from the US Open, but was missing from Sport channel lenses since his second round loss at Wimbledon. During his seven-month privation I was due for Surgery midway. Before boarding my flight to the United States I picked up his autobiography hoping to gain insight on his injuries, rigorous training lifestyle and how he managed to overcome adversity and achieve such acrolithic heights. Unfortunately the book ends with his triumphant 2010 US Open capture. His current knee condition and the future of his career were kept under wraps and shrewd in mystery. Although digging up his past encouraged me to adapt a warrior mentality, his current position made the path ahead ambiguous. It didn’t help that the doctor’s diagnosis that my humble career has reached its end just as I was starting to breakthrough.
During my three months of consistent rehabilitation I found it hard to turn on the TV and watch a professional match. Every time I tried to do so, the slow motion replay of players constant sprinting and sudden stops was enough to make me cringe as the cameras zoomed on their leg. Like nails to a blackboard, I felt my knee strain without even being on the court. The doctors were eager to see how my knee would respond after surgery and rehab and I was put on court in early January. Unfortunately my knee-braced appearance encouraged my opponent to deviously exploit my weakness. Almost every return was a dropshot* and thirty minutes later I was wiped off the court, and the knee reeling in complete agony
*dropshot: is when a ball is sliced to fall closer to the net forcing the player to run from the baseline to retrieve that ball. Constantly doing this only aggravated my knee in the process*
I spent months absent from the gym floor and my ears deprived from the sound of my soles screeching against Bahrain’s finest hard courts. My early morning high-octane drive was curbed; instead of pushing my athleticism and fitness to new limits my physiotherapy routine only made me feel more broken. I had to give antagonizing description of the position and level of pain and endure consistent stretching and pressuring the knee to cooperate rebuild, hopefully to at least reach a point where I don’t have to feel like a button was automatically pressed to ignite pain every time I woke up. My physiotherapist and close friend Rashid is amazing at what he does, and it was never sufficient enough to just tell him ‘ouch it hurts’, there’s more to rehab than just that, and as it turns out there was more to my issue then just surgery and missing cartilage.
Sometimes I had to aggravate the knee further for me to reach any beneficiary result, alongside the fact that every knee responds differently, I was again a human experiment.
Before his return, everybody questioned Nadal’s integrity, and the King of Clay’s future had a big question mark on it. I cannot deny how amazed I was when he won the French Open earlier this year. The finals took place during my trek across Cappadocia. I enjoyed my recuperation with some Turkish tea as Nadal battled it out on the red dirt. His arsenal was still fully equipped, however what will happen to his tennis once we add hard courts to the equation. Unfortunately for Nadal, we did not have to wait for that. I remember walking up towards the players lounge at this years Wimbledon during lunch, and I noticed that the entire world around me stood still. The media rooms and player rest area was silent and everybody’s eyes were darted towards the nearest monitor. Nadal was a point away from being eliminated from the first round of Wimbledon against #135 Steve Darcis.
And it happened… in straight sets.
I saw the shock amongst the players, the technical team and officials behind the scene. They couldn’t believe what just occurred. It’s not going to get easier, the hard court season was just around the corner. What now for the Spaniard?
During the Holy month of Ramadan, JC’s tennis academy was holding agility training sessions at night and I was encouraged to lace up my tennis shoes and hit the court. After months of rehab and skepticism I walked across the baseline for the very first time to greet everybody at the benches. Although I got the green light from both my doctor and physiotherapist, the final approval I was waiting for was from my knee. Talking to my tennis inspiration James Blake during his training at Wimbledon is probably what pushed me to try harder to make it back to the courts, himself having knee surgery and telling me to keep going with no regrets. Its funny how my year of constantly searching for answers and examples, ended with just a few sentences from Blake.
That night, I was slow and sluggish on the court, and it wasn’t the fasting or the gluten test I was on..
my knee wasn’t cooperating.
I eventually warmed up and started to return my shots with the fierceness that spent the last year in hibernation. My on court movement issues were only the beginning. My time on court aggravated the knee to the point where I had to unearth post-surgery Vicodin pills to help me go to sleep. I remember this point clearly. I cried myself to sleep, and after seeing my opponents overpower me during a mere practice season, I pronounced my tennis days over.
Two weeks from that date, both Nadal and myself began our hard court seasons. Although we are two different tennis players, in different stages of our career and playing on different spectrums almost a world apart, we remain united in uncertainty and doubt. Two weeks later we proved the world wrong in very different ways.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. I really hope you have enjoyed it. I did leave some parts of my injury and other aspects ambiguous as I would like to tackle them in future articles. However Part 2 will cover the events that took place two weeks later
and will be released Sunday October 6th 2013 and is now available to read by clicking here!
I would love to read your comments on what i’ve written. What has amazed you about Nadal’s fight to comeback? Has it encouraged you to push through with your own injuries or tribulations? Even if you do not play tennis, what does this article leave you with? Sound of in the comments box below 🙂