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Moya On Nadal's Comeback: 'It’s Been A Winding And Torturous Road'

  • Posted: Dec 17, 2023

Moya On Nadal’s Comeback: ‘It’s Been A Winding And Torturous Road’

Mallorcan’s coach takes a look back at lefty’s most challenging months

After a year off the courts, Rafael Nadal will be back in competition in late December at the Brisbane International presented by Evie. After an operation on his psoas muscle and a lingering hip issue, the 22-time Grand Slam champion set out on the long road to recovery with his sights set on a 2024 return, and the opportunity to bring an end to his legendary career while battling it out on a tennis court.

Having recently returned from Kuwait, where they practised for a few days with Arthur Fils, and before heading for Australia, Carlos Moyà, the Spaniard’s coach, sat down with for an exclusive discussion about the most difficult time in the Mallorcan’s career.

Could you break down what has happened in the past few months, from Nadal’s decision to have an operation to the latest training sessions, with a mind to return to competition in Brisbane?
It’s what comes with an operation that requires complete rest. He had a more complicated operation than was first expected. Once they opened him up and saw what was there, it was more delicate than they had first thought. It’s not that he didn’t have tests and scans… but it seems that they didn’t have a good idea of the problem and the recovery period was longer than expected.

It’s also true that if he hadn’t had the operation, it would’ve been even more difficult for him to recover. He always knew he wanted to come back and that he wanted to say his goodbye on court.

After the operation… it was a month and a half of practically not seeing him, because he went on holiday. He was doing rehab as much as he could, given that he was on the boat in Greece. Then, at the end of August, we started to train, but very lightly. We would do two days a week, twenty minutes. It was a very slow progression. Sometimes we would take a step back, then go again… We were always very careful.

The start was very tough, of course. There were times when it looked difficult because he wasn’t getting better. We always had peace of mind because of the constant contact with the doctor, with tests, to reassure ourselves that the rate of progress was completely normal.

We gradually increased the load and the intensity, always with a very careful plan that we followed. Sometimes we would have to take a step back, rest a little, slow down. But it’s the entire process that comes with an injury of this severity, and you’re at the point of your career when you’re no longer 20 years old.

Little by little, we were able to progress, the issues were gradually solved and now he’s practically ready to go to Australia and give it a go.

<a href=Rafael Nadal” />
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil
Was there any point of the entire process when you thought he wouldn’t come back?
Yes. When you go through a process like this operation… at the end of the day, going under the knife is really a last resort, and I’m talking from experience, to try and make a comeback and retire on court. Aware of those risks, he gave it a go because it was the only option for him if he wanted to come back.

And when we started, and we’d been playing for a month and a half, or two, and we realised that progress was very slow… you don’t know if it’s slower than expectations because it’s the first time we’d been in a situation like that. But you do have your doubts, and in the player’s head there are also doubts: Will his body respond? Will it be able to take the loads? A lot of questions arise. It has not been a bed of roses, far from it. It’s been a winding, tortuous road, with many curves.

Besides the tennis work, what was your psychological role? I imagine there would have been a lot of days of talking, encouragement, being there to listen.
Both myself and the rest of the team. When I talk about myself, I talk about the whole team, aware that we are with a 37-year-old human being who has his life, his family, his interests, and his feelings. We’ve tried to support him, doing what we thought was right at each moment, looking out for his wellbeing and confidence.

Sometimes we had to press him a little, sometimes we had to take a step back. Depending on how we saw the situation from one day to the next, and above all his state of mind and motivation, sometimes one thing was required, while on other days it was the other.

In that regard, I think that he has a very understanding team. We’ve known him for many years and I think that aspect was very well taken care of.

It was a question of controlling the balance between pushing and letting go. We were aware that we had to be careful. It’s always easy to work with him because of the respect he has for all of us. I think that’s very important, but of course there were some very tough and difficult days.

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Nadal: ‘You Always Have To Give Yourself A Chance’

Were they your most difficult times with him?
Without any doubt. There have been other difficult situations, but now you can tell the batteries are running low. A sportsman has an expiry date, and he is getting closer to it every day. You’re never aware of when that time is, very rarely. You just keep trying. And I think in that regard we’ve all had our doubts that it could come in Australia, he more so than anyone.

I had them for a certain part of the process, during certain stages. I had the feeling that it could be the end, that he’d have no chance to play again. It was the most difficult time I’ve had with him.

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Best Of 2023 Retirements: Americans Isner, Sock Hang Up Their Racquets

  • Posted: Dec 17, 2023

Best Of 2023 Retirements: Americans Isner, Sock Hang Up Their Racquets

Chardy, Bellucci also bowed out in 2023

As we continue our review of the 2023 ATP Tour season, we look back at some of the biggest names who called time on their playing careers this year. Americans John Isner and Jack Sock lead Part 2 of this story, with Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Andujar among those featured in Part 1 yesterday.

John Isner
Isner was the standard-bearer of American men’s tennis for much of his career. The No. 1 American in the year-end Pepperstone ATP Rankings for eight of nine years from 2012-20, Isner finished inside the year-end Top 20 for the entirety of the 2010s. 

The ATP Tour’s all-time aces leader hit 48 aces in his final singles match at the US Open. The former World No. 8 closed his career with 16 tour-level singles titles and 489 match wins.

“I think I’ve overachieved. I never imagined myself having this much success for this long,” said Isner, who turned pro in 2007 after winning the NCAA team title with the University of Georgia. “Of course, there’s so many matches I wish I could have back, but I prepared in my mind as best as I possibly could for 17 years. I don’t have many regrets, that’s for sure.” Read Isner Tribute

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Jack Sock
A former Top 10 star in both singles and doubles, Sock reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 8 in 2017, a year in which he finished as the No. 1 American. The following season, he ascended to World No. 2 in doubles.

The American won four Grand Slam doubles titles (including one in mixed), and also won two Olympic medals at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games: a mixed doubles gold medal with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and men’s doubles bronze with Steve Jonson. The biggest of his four career tour-level singles crowns came at the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters, a triumph that clinched his place at that season’s Nitto ATP Finals.

“To the 8-year-old boy who immediately fell in love with the sport of tennis. I hope I made you proud,” Sock wrote in an Instagram post announcing his retirement. “It’s been 14 years of memories I will never forget.” Read Sock Tribute

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Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Thomaz Bellucci
Brazil’s Bellucci wrapped up his playing days this year on home soil in Rio de Janeiro. The 35-year-old won four ATP Tour singles titles and 200 tour-level matches in his career, which began when he turned pro in 2005.

“I feel happy and a little bit sad too,” the former World No. 21 said of his retirement. “Tennis was in my life for many years. It’s not easy to stop playing. But I’ve enjoyed myself so much, and my body is now feeling the years and the sacrifices I’ve made. It’s time to do something else, experience new things.”

In a conversation with, Bellucci recalled how he persevered after a knee injury nearly led him away from the game much earlier in his career. Read Bellucci Tribute

Jeremy Chardy
The 36-year-old Frenchman opened his abbreviated farewell season with an Australian Open win, before finishing his career with defeat to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon.

Chardy won his lone tour-level title in 2009 in Stuttgart and reached a career-high of No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings four years later in 2013. He also cracked the Top 25 of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, winning seven ATP Tour doubles crowns.

“It’s something special,” Chardy said of his career after being honoured at the Nitto ATP Finals. “You work hard your whole life. When you were young, your dream was to become a tennis player, and from the moment you start to play on the ATP Tour, the time flies so fast.

“I enjoyed my journey so much and I have no regrets. I just finished and I’m already coaching, I’m still on Tour. It means I really love tennis!” Read More

Retiring players at the <a href=Nitto ATP Finals 2023″ />
Chardy, second from right, was honoured alongside fellow recently retired stars at the 2023 Nitto ATP Finals. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Treat Huey
A Filipino born in Washington, D.C., Huey received an emotional sendoff at the ATP 500 in his home city. The eight-time tour-level doubles champion won his first ATP Tour title at the D.C. event in 2012.

“Growing up as a kid, I was like, ‘I’d love to be good enough to play this tournament one time,’ ” he reflected. “I ended up playing it a couple times, winning it once. So it was an absolute dream come true… It was amazing I played for 14, 15 years, so I had an amazing time.”

Huey claimed a personal-best three trophies in 2015 and hit a career-high Pepperstone ATP Doubles Ranking of No. 18 the following season. Read Huey Tribute

Bradley Klahn
An eight-time singles champion on the ATP Challenger Tour, Klahn played his final tournament at a Challenger in his home U.S. state of California. Some of the American’s fondest professional memories include playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2018 and scoring a five-set win against Jurgen Melzer to secure his first major main-draw victory at the 2012 US Open in front of an electric home crowd.

“It never felt like a job to me to have to go and hit tennis balls and try to improve,” the former World No. 63 told “I’ve been very lucky for 11 years to play professionally. Not many people get to take their childhood passion and turn it into a professional thing. I am fortunate that I can say I did it.” Read Klahn Tribute

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Oliver Marach
A six-time competitor at the Nitto ATP Finals, Marach was part of a prestigious group of recently retired players honoured at the 2023 season finale in Turin. The Austrian won 23 tour-level doubles titles and reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Doubles Ranking of World No. 2.

“For me it’s very special,” he said of the recognition at the Nitto ATP Finals. “I have big emotions around this tournament… For me it has always been next to the Grand Slams as the biggest tournament in the world, I love to come here. They treat the players specially, and the best players get together in a final clash of the year. I always enjoyed the tournament and I’m happy to have my retirement here.” Read More

Read all stories in our Best Of 2023 review.

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