Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni claimed his nephew would prefer to have earned less prize money if it resulted in fewer injuries during his tennis career.
Nadal experienced a career resurgence in 2017 as he won a total of six titles, including a record-breaking 10th French Open crown and his third US Open, along with becoming world number one for the first time since 2014.
However, having been injury-prone for most of his career, the Spaniard’s remarkable year ended at the ATP Finals in London in November after he withdrew due to a knee problem.
The 16-time Grand Slam winner returned to the Australian Open in January, but eventually had to withdraw in the fifth set of his quarter-final clash with Marin Cilic due to a hip injury.
After further rehabilitation, Nadal was expected to return to the Mexican Open in Acapulco last month but withdrew on the day of his opening match due to a recurrence of the injury, before revealing he would also be missing out on Indian Wells and the Miami Open this month.
His withdrawal from the latter marks the seventh consecutive event he either retired or pulled out from since the Paris Masters, as his uncle Toni recently made the revelation the 31-year-old was on painkillers since 2005.
“Since 2005 my nephew continuously lives with pain and then subsequent soothing with painkillers,” Toni told a Management and Sport conference at the Murcia School of Sport and Business, Spanish national daily Marca reported.
“It has got to the point where we are looking at his health ahead of matches. Many times he’s told me that he would have liked to earn less money in exchange for suffering less pain.”
Despite his injury, Nadal has cemented himself as the greatest clay-court player of all time and is in the conversation of being the best tennis player of all time alongside Roger Federer. His success in the sport never surprised Toni, who predicted he would be a champion when he was just a kid.
“Talent isn’t the most important thing, but having the ability to learn is what determines success,” Toni added. “You have to work harder than other players. Rafa has always had a lot of confidence, I knew when he was just seven years old that he would become a champion for Spain.”
As of now, Nadal is back on the treatment table to heal his hip after a recurrence of the injury he first suffered during the Australian Open. He is expected to return in April just in time for the start of the clay-court season where he will be defending 4,860 points.
However, his doctor Angel Ruiz Cotorro has warned him training will be minimal as his condition requires the maximum amount of rest to heal completely.