Nadal pays tribute to a friend and great rival
RAFAEL Nadal expressed his sadness at Andy Murray’s impending retirement but backed the Scot’s decision as the right move for his mental health.
“Of course it’s very bad news,” he said. “But when somebody like him, he achieved almost everything in his tennis career, is suffering like he’s doing for such a long time already, and you feel that you are not competitive for the thing that really makes you wake up every morning and go on court with the passion to practise, to improve, and with a goal, then it is so difficult.
“Probably he is fighting to keep going a long time. If he doesn’t feel that the thing can go better, probably he does the right thing for his mental health.
“It will be a very important loss for us, for the world of tennis, for the tour, for the fans, even for the rivals that he has been part of a great rivalry between the best players for a long time, and a great competitor.
“It seems like he had not a very long career. But he’s 31. Ten years ago, if he retired at 31, we will say he had a great and very long career. We will miss him.”
Nadal was a junior rival of Murray and the pair have known each other for 20 years.
“When he was a kid, he was little bit a bad boy,” said the Spaniard with a smile. “I always had a good relationship with him. We shared the court in the most important stadiums in the world, competing for the most important things. That’s impossible to forget.”
Murray was back on court yesterday, practising with Grigor Dimitrov on Rod Laver Arena ahead of a first-round match against Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow that could be the final act of his glittering career.
It will be a strange occasion for Bautista Agut, a player known for a gruelling baseline style who is sure to test Murray’s hip to the maximum. He has never taken a set off the Scot in three meetings but arrived in Melbourne after beating Novak Djokovic on his way to a ninth ATP Tour singles title in Doha.
He said: “Everybody knows Andy. Everybody knows when he goes on court he gives every time 100 per cent. I think Andy’s going to fight as he did all his career. It’s a great experience for me to play in one of his last Grand Slams against him so I want to enjoy the experience.”
The tributes continued to flow in, including from Tim Henman, the man whose mantle Murray took and then elevated. Although the Scot feels he has unfinished business, Henman believes he should have no regrets.
“When you look at the list of his achievements, starting with three Grand Slams, t wo Olympic golds and finishing world No 1, there are no greater goals you can achieve in our sport,” he said.
“He has worked incredibly hard and, having seen that at pretty close quarters, his development from someone who joined us at Davis Cup as a 16-year-old and the way his game has progressed and the way he has matured physically and mentality, it has been incredible to watch.
“I know he will be immensely proud of those achievements even though he will be disappointed at the moment.”