Rafael Nadal says his mindset was 'close to' retirement in the weeks following the French Open, after battling past Wimbledon second round opponent Ricardas Berankis.
The Spaniard's appearance at Wimbledon was in serious doubt following his French Open victory, after he revealed his left foot was numb from painkilling injections required for him to stay on the court.
The 36-year-old made an incredible recovery to be at Wimbledon, but in the press conference after defeating the World No.104, Nadal said he had come very close to announcing his retirement.
Instead, he opted to undergo treatments to ease the substantial nerve pain in his troublesome left foot, which he missed most of the 2021 season rehabilitating.
While the early returns at Wimbledon would indicate whatever treatment Nadal undertook has been a success, at least in the short term, he didn't shy away from sharing how close he had been to walking away from the tennis world.
“My philosophy is couple of weeks ago I was close to it (retirement),” Nadal said.
“Now I don’t feel that way. That’s my philosophy.
“It’s something that I am not … I never had fear about that day. I think I am happy that I had a very happy life outside of tennis, even if tennis is a very important part of my life for the last 30 years.
“I have been happy outside of tennis, without a doubt. I have a lot of things that I like to do away from tennis, so I am not worried about that.
"But, of course, when that day arrives, going to be a change. All the changes in this life takes a while. You need to adapt to the changes."
Rafa Nadal on retirement: "A couple of weeks ago I was close to it [retirement]. Now I don't feel that way. I don't fear that day. I have a very happy life outside of tennis, even if tennis is a very big part of my life."#Wimbledon
— James Gray (@jamesgraysport) June 30, 2022
Nadal said the furious speculation about his retirement was understandable, predicting longtime rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic would face similar scrutiny.
"It’s normal that the people talks about retirement of the great athletes because in some way the athletes that have been for such a long time in the top of the game, even more in more popular sports, become part of the life of so many people," he said.
"Happens to me the same with some football players, with golf players.
“I mean, for example, a person that I love to see, Tiger Woods playing. Now I’m not able to see Tiger Woods playing that often. In some way, that’s a change in my life, too."
Rafael Nadal troubled by Ricardas Berankis in Wimbledon second round
The 22-time grand slam champion took the first set and many would have predicted Nadal to step it up a level on Centre Court.
However, he was made to work for the second set after losing his serve and needing to recover.
Nadal was then stunned in the third, before recovering to close out the match.
And in his on-court interview, Nadal made the brutal admission that improvement was needed before he comes up against the dangerous Lorenzo Sonego in the next round.
"I need to improve. But I think the fourth set was much better," Nadal said right after the match.
"I think it was a good level of tennis in that fourth set. The serve worked much better.
"In the end I was able to play a little bit more aggressive with the forehand.
"At the beginning, it was too many mistakes, but that's a process. It's important for me to accept that things are not perfect and [that I need to] just keep working, being humble and accept the challenge."
Nadal has now lost the third set in consecutive matches, but has recovered to regain momentum.
At 3-0 in the fourth set, rain fell on Centre Court.
Nadal and Berankis played through the drizzle for a little while, before officials decided to close the roof.
However, the interruption to the match took nearly an hour.
While Nadal had no qualms about the process, the Spaniard did admit the court was 'slippery' when they returned.
"It's part of tennis, no complaining," Nadal said when questioned on whether the roof closure disrupted him.
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