Rafa Nadal has revealed he intentionally ignored requests from his wife and coaches to retire hurt during his shock loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open on Wednesday. Nadal suffered a brutal straight-sets loss in what could be his final appearance at Melbourne Park after injuring his hip.
The 36-year-old was badly hobbled by the injury and could barely move around the court during the final stages of the match. However the Spanish champion refused to quit (he's never retired hurt during a match in his entire career) and played on until McDonald sealed the victory.
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Nadal's wife Xisca was seen in tears in the crowd as the realisation set in that Nadal wasn't going to be able to fight back. Speaking in his post-match press conference, Nadal said he intentionally stopped communicating with his team because he knew they were pleading with him to quit.
“Yeah, I consider all the time stopping, but I didn't ask the physiotherapist at the end,” he said after the match. “I have to know myself. And I tried to keep playing without increasing the damage.
"No, that's it. I was not able to hit the backhand at all. I was not able to run for the ball. But I just wanted to finish the match. That's it.”
Nadal also defied the wishes of his team to retire hurt against Taylor Fritz at Wimbledon last year when he suffered an abdominal injury. On that occasion he managed to win the quarter-final clash before pulling out of his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.
“I didn't ask them. I am old enough to take my own decisions," he said on Wednesday.
"So I didn't want to retire, to be defending champion here. No, I didn't want to leave the court with a retirement. Better like this at the end. I lost. Nothing to say. Congratulate the opponent.
“That's the sport at the same time. Just try your best till the end. Doesn't matter the chances that you have. That's the philosophy of the sport. That's the essence of the sport by itself. I tried to follow that during all my tennis career, and I tried of course to not increase the damage, because I didn't know what's going on.”
— TRAVEL&Sports (@travel__Sports) January 18, 2023
I felt for Nadal, his team, and his wife. It was such a sad moment for them. Nadal suffered a hip injury during the match, but played through it rather than retire because he is a stand-up guy and the champion that he is.
— Rubygirl (@ElaineB15943992) January 18, 2023
It was so sad to see Nadal’s wife shed a tear as she watched on. The pain. As a tennis lover, you really would feel for him.
— The Governor of Merriment (@pheelbny) January 18, 2023
— Kira Kleaveland (@KiraTV) January 18, 2023
Can't recall ever seeing Nadal's wife cry during an injury time-out.
My guess: the retirement discussions have been made.
2023 could really be it. I'm not ready.#AusOpen
— Pamela Maldonado (@pamelam35) January 18, 2023
It's so difficult to watch an injured Nadal limp off the court. His wife was crying in the crowd earlier. Difficult watch all round. #AustralianOpen
— James Francisco Felton (@james_felton1) January 18, 2023
Rafa Nadal's exit sparks retirement questions
Nadal's exit has sparked serious concerns around his future in tennis, with retirement surely on the horizon. He lingered on court to wave a poignant goodbye to fans in what many interpreted as a final farewell to Melbourne Park.
But according to Nadal, it's not goodbye just yet. "I really hope that it doesn't put me out of the court for a long time," he told reporters, admitting he didn't know the nature of the hip issue that made him feel he "couldn't move".
"It's not only the recovery. It's all the amount of work that you need to put together to come back at a decent level. I went through this process too many times in my career. I am ready to keep doing it, I think - but that's not easy..."
Nadal and Xisca recently welcomed their first child together - a baby boy. He previously said he didn't want to keep playing and travelling around the world after becoming a father. But dragging Nadal away from the sport he loves so dearly won't be an easy prospect.
"It's a very simple thing: I like what I do," he said. "I like playing tennis. I know it's not forever. I like to feel myself competitive. I like to fight for the things that I have been fighting for almost half of my life or even more.
"When you do things that you like to do, at the end of the day, it's not a sacrifice. Sacrifice is when you are doing things that you don't want to do. And that was not my case. But of course it's tiring and frustrating to spend a lot of my tennis career on recovering process and trying to fight against all this stuff all the time..."
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