Rafael Nadal has it pretty down pat how many days off he can spare between his regular stint sinking his teeth into the Coupe de Mousquetaires at Roland Garros and his shift to the grass.
Almost as sure as Nadal stepping off the plane with the French Open trophy under arm is the Mediterranean sun greeting him at his island home on Mallorca, something the Spaniard knows not to take for granted when he arrives in these parts.
“You cannot forget the tennis when you have Wimbledon in two weeks [after the French Open]. It's impossible,” Nadal said. “But, yes, I stop for a few days … [The] first day I play tennis [was] Saturday. Sunday I play a little bit. I arrive here Tuesday morning.
“The rest of the days I was able to enjoy a little bit the island in Mallorca with friends and family. Was great, because this part of the season the weather there is great and we have the chance to enjoy the sea.”
Intentional or not, he was subtly rubbing in the fact as drizzle fell on SW19, with a cheeky grin lining his face after making reference to Mallorca’s enviable summer.
Almost 12 months ago though, relaxing at home was the least of the Spaniard’s priorities after suffering one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history; beaten in the second round in five sets by Czech Lukas Rosol.
It would be his last match for seven months, with a knee injury putting an end to his season.
But he was not about to detract from Rosol’s level of play that day.
“I don't have nothing to learn about [last] year because is not an excuse. Rosol played a fantastic fifth set. He probably beat me if I was healthy,” Nadal said. “That's tennis and that's the sport. You lose, you win … But that experience for me last year was too much. I suffer too much.”
Seeded fifth for this year’s Championships, Nadal begins his 2013 campaign against Belgian Steve Darcis, a player whose all-court talent belies his ranking of world No.113.
“He knows how to play tennis in all the surfaces. He has good shots. I say he is a complete player,” he said. “Here, in these kind of surfaces, well, in this surface, on grass, all the matches are close. Matches can be decided for a few balls.”
Facing the prospect of having to find a way past Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in succession to land a third Wimbledon crown, Nadal’s path in 2013 could not have been tougher.
After last year’s first-week shock, the dream showdowns with Federer or Murray in the bottom half of the draw are still a way off.
“The rankings say these kind of things can happen … but I don’t see them before quarter-finals and semi-finals,” he said.
“My view is if I arrive to quarter-finals is because I will be ready … But for me, going to be very tough to be there.”
Despite a heavy schedule since his February return, which included title runs in seven of nine events, Nadal admitted he had exceeded even his own expectations in what started out as a “transition year”.
“At this point of my career the most important thing is be happy for me,” he said. “And (I’m) happy when I have the chance to compete well.”
Should his season continue at its current rate, he will have plenty to be happy about at the 2013 Championships.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all