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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The mind behind Rafael Nadal’s return to the top

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Rafael Nadal’s coach, Paul Annacone, recalls the seeds that planted the grass-court season of 2019 and ultimate form of the season the previous summer, and how he was able to come back at all.

“I was talking with him after the U.S. Open, and we had this discussion about Roland Garros, which he hadn’t played [since] 2008. He did not want to push himself out there and be injured. He was hurt. He said he would come back the following summer after the clay [court] season. I said, ‘Don’t push it. We’ll figure something out later in the year.’ He asked me: ‘Why, in August?’ ‘You know what? A year ago at Wimbledon, you were physically OK, but mentally you were nothing. You were overwhelmed at the court. You hadn’t gone to Rio. You weren’t ready. That’s what happened last year at Roland Garros.’ He said: ‘Yes, it’s true. I’ve been thinking about this for a year, but I didn’t feel ready because I wasn’t mentally ready.’

“So how does he get through it? Three things: What is the mental mind behind it? He has been through the mental battles, that he knows how to face. He has had the last two injuries. Can he go back to the mental strength that got him there at the end? Does he really want to be in the same situation again, having not being able to have the kind of grass season he would like to play?

“That’s a strong guy. He has figured it out the last two years, mentally, physically, everything has been better. And in August, he was ready to go. He wanted to play grass in a 10-city swing that didn’t start until [Nov.] 26, and he did that. There’s a healthiness, there’s a stamina, there’s a discipline and discipline that there’s no question that it’s related to a massive wellness investment. And having been there the last two years, of course he will do everything that he has to.”

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