Rafa Nadal: the real reason I quit Wimbledon in 2009
Spaniard says heartbreak caused by his parents’ divorce ruined his tennis
Tennis star Rafael Nadal has explained for the first time that he withdrew from Wimbledon in 2009 not just because of injury, but because of the impact on his game of his parents' divorce.
The Spaniard had won the tournament the previous year. But he decided not to defend his title after being defeated at the 2009 French Open for the first time ever – a loss of form he puts down to the "heartbreaking" news of his parents' break-up.
"My knees were the immediate reason, but I knew that the root cause was my state of mind," he says in an extract from his autobiography, Rafa: My Story, published by the Daily Telegraph. "My competitive zeal had waned, the adrenalin had dried up."
Nadal believes his inner turmoil created his injuries. "If your head is in permanent stress, you sleep little and your mind is distracted – exactly the symptoms I was showing at that time – the impact on your body is devastating."
Nadal explains how when his father first told him of the marital problems – on the way back from winning the Australian Open in early 2009 – he was left "stunned" and "heartbroken".
"My parents were the pillar of my life and that pillar had crumbled. The continuity I so valued in my life had been cut in half, and the emotional order I depend on had been dealt a shocking blow." Contact with other family members became "awkward and unnatural", while trips to the family home in Porto Cristo, Majorca were "uncomfortable and strange" without his father being there.
"On the surface I remained a tennis-playing automaton," Nadal recalls, "but the man inside had lost all love of life."
Looking back, Nadal remains philosophical. When the "fanatical enthusiasm" necessary to compete at the highest level begins to ebb, "the best thing to do is pause and wait for the desire to return".