Rafael Nadal harboured plenty of doubts when he returned to tennis in February after a seven-month layoff because of a left knee injury.
His uncertainty was magnified when he lost in the final of his first tournament to Horacio Zeballos, a 73ed ranked Argentine who had never won a title before.
“I felt a lot of pain in my knee,“ Nadal said. “I was more worried about other things than (whether I would) win or lose that match in that moment.“
Memories of that painful defeat in Chile, along with the worrisome lay-offs that preceded it, made Nadal's latest French Open title on Sunday that much sweeter.
He became the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam tour nament w h e n he beat fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the final 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Since his return, he has won seven titles in nine tournaments, with losses only to Zeballos and topranked Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo. He’ll take a 22match winning streak to Wimbledon in two weeks.
Following Sunday’s victory, Nadal sat next to the French Open trophy and discussed his comeback.
When asked about his troublesome knees, he managed a smile.
“My knee, not knees. I am lucky that is not both. It’s only one,” he said. “Some weeks I didn’t feel well, but the last couple of weeks I start to feel my knee better. I am still going week by week, day by day.”
Andre Agassi found it tough enough to win Roland Garros once — to complete his career Grand Slam in 1999. He predicted that Nadal’s title total at the French Open will never be matched. And Agassi said Nadal might not be done winning in Paris, or at the other major tournaments.
“Hopefully he’s smarter with his body moving forward,” Agassi said. “And I think he will be, because he has felt the price tag of making bad decisions or playing too much, or he knows how fragile it all can be. I think he’s going to start to focus a lot more on being ready for these events. This is good for tennis. We need him around as long as possible.”
Agassi’s ranking once dropped to No. 141, and he said it took him two years to mount his comeback to win the French Open. Mindful of that experience, he finds Nadal’s return from his knee injury remarkable. “To watch him come back and do what he has done tells you a lot about his psyche, tells you a lot about how he spends time, tells you a lot about his decisionmaking, tells you a lot about his heart, about his work ethic,” Agassi said. “To miss that kind of time and to do what he’s done, I’ve never seen it.”