Rafael Nadal is not taking part of the Dubai Championship, nursing his injured shoulder as part of his plan to take some time off after the Australian Open. The winner of that final in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic, hasn’t played since then until his win in the first round in Dubai.
Nadal, despite not playing, has been in the spotlight, and not for the right reasons exactly. Yannick Noah made baseless (till now) allegations of Spanish athletes, across the board, use of doping. Probably the feeling in France that Spain have left them behind in pretty much everything has caused Noah to get this out. French TV made fun of Nadal and others, showing them signing contracts with syringes.
This isn’t the first time Nadal has been accused, or at least mentioned, usually by those frustrated with his success, of using illegal substances to gain the physical advantage he holds over most of the tour. Training harder than anyone else and talent just didn’t cross their minds, I guess.
My genuine feeling is that I’m very much liked in France, even though the crowd at Roland Garros is the one which has supported me the least. The caricatures are done and dusted. It’s gone beyond… We’ve given it loads of publicity,” he said, before underlining his stance on the subject of doping. It’s a global problem. There are always people who are going to cheat. I want a clean sport but I don’t like the system, it’s unfair.
Nadal has been the most vocal “rebel” against the ATP schedule, even getting himself into a bit of a bind with Federer after accusing Roger Federer of not speaking out against the governing body, trying to stay on its good side. But Nadal’s biggest problem with his long term goals, which is winning more grand slams, remains Djokovic.
The world number one just seems in perfect condition physically and mentally to continue his incredible run of winning four grand slam titles out of the last five tournaments. He was incredible during last seasons’ masters months, beating Nadal in four finals before losing to Roger Federer at the Roland Garros. Nadal will make his return, probably, in time to play at the Indian Wells Masters.
He is the best right now, but he’s always beatable. Right now, not by Nadal, who gave it everything he had in that Melbourne final, but his all, right now, with the power balance between the two players, just isn’t enough.