It’s not surprising then that the 19-time major winner advocated the same for tennis’ comeback to the competitive arena, following what almost certainly appears to be a five-month hiatus (March to August), courtesy the deadly virus that has ravaged the planet.
The Spaniard called for a safe and fair return game.
With two Grand Slams – the US Open and the French Open – scheduled to be played in the next four months, Nadal said if the championships cannot be staged in ‘extremely safe’ environments, then it wouldn’t make sense for the umpire to call love-all in 2020.
The US Open is set to begin in New York on August 31 and the French Open in Paris in late September.
The world No. 2, who has won 93 of his 95 matches at the French Open, said during a media teleconference organized by the French Tennis Federation (FFT), “We need to send a clear message to society, we need to be responsible and set a positive example.”
The left-hander warned that organizing a Grand Slam would require the coming together of some 600-700 people — players, singles and doubles, men and women, coaches and tournament staff. “Every single player, from every part of the world, needs to have the chance to play the tournament. If not, in my opinion we can’t play tennis,” he underlined.
The 34-year-old, who had earlier stated that he didn’t see the 2020 tennis season resume, called for caution. “My feeling is that we need to wait a little bit more. We’re playing a global sport, it’s not the same as football. For me, the key is to find the medicine so that we can be sure to travel and compete without being scared of contracting the virus or bringing the virus home.”
Asked if he would put his hand up, if maybe players from one country couldn’t play because of the after-effects of the pandemic, he said: “Maybe we’ll come back, maybe I will play, but we’re not being 100 percent correct,” he said. “I want to see my sport being 100 percent correct, especially in these circumstances.”
Nadal said he wasn’t aware of the FFT’s decision to push the French Open, a traditional May-starter, to the end of September, adding that he had only heard about the news minutes before the announcement.
The defending champion, who is looking for title No. 13 at Roland Garros and a record-equalling 20th major title, said: “I admire the FFT that they are positive and want to move forward, but the situation is difficult to predict.”
He adopted the same wait-and-watch approach for the US Open. “If you ask me today if I want to travel to New York to play a tennis tournament, I will say no. But in a couple of months, I don’t know how the situation will be. Hopefully it will improve the right way. I’m confident they will make the right decision at the right moment.”
With the world already reeling from the blows of Covid-19, the situation has taken a turn for the worse in the United States following the killing of George Floyd, a black man whose tragic demise has seen the arrest of four police officers for murder. There have been protests and violent clashes this past week.
“There’s nothing more important in this world than health and life. Today, we are not able to enjoy these two.” Nadal said, calling the situation in the US ‘ugly’.
The Spaniard said racism had no place in sport and life as a whole. “All people who want a good world and a safe world are against racism and poverty and all the terrible stuff that is happening,” he said. “When you see all these disasters on the streets, my feeling is it’s not the way to protest. I believe in people, where everybody is the same and there is equal rights and opportunities for all. We need to keep working to make this world a better place.”