(AAP) – Rafael Nadal admits he’s planning for retirement – but says the golf course and fishing can wait as he plots possibly his last serious tilt at Australian Open glory.
Rafa rarely utters the R-word but, in a candid and colourful interview, the 17-times grand slam champion has confessed to accepting the end is inevitable after almost 20 years of battering his body into submission.
“Life has great things, not only tennis, so it is something that doesn’t scare me, to think about that day and that day is realistic,” Rafa said.
“The day that I feel that I don’t have chances to compete for the things that make me happy will probably be the day to do another thing.
“I am here to try and play a very good tournament in Melbourne and I believe if I have this good week of practice and I am able to have a good start in the tournament, why not? I am playing well (enough to win).”
Turning 33 in June, and after being dogged by knee, back, wrist and abdominal injuries, not to mention ankle surgery in November, Rafa knows he’s in the tail end of his illustrious career and “of course” is thinking about life after tennis.
“I prepare my future, of course. I have my tennis academy, a foundation. I have different things around the world that I have to take care (of) in the future and, of course, I will not be the guy who finished a tennis career and am going to stay at home fishing and playing golf every day.
“Of course I would like to do it more often than the last 20 years probably, but I like the work, the new experiences.
“I am a worker so I like to do those things.”
Feeling relaxed and jovial before entering his intense grand slam mode, Rafa offered a fascinating insight into his passion for golf.
The tennis southpaw declared himself “a rightie” and modestly revealed how, despite being very much a part-timer, he plays off a two handicap.
“One point eight, 1.7,” in fact, he said.
“I am solid, more or less. I have nothing unbelievable but nothing (really weak).
“I more or less have a good short game and I am solid with the driver. Being honest, I never take a lesson and I never go to the range and hit balls. I don’t have much time for it.
“When I have the chance, the only thing that I like to do is go and play with the family or the friends.
“If I don’t play with a family or friends, I don’t go. I like to play by teams. We have teams tournaments in Majorca and I have the team from my club and enjoy playing with them, playing the tournament, then have lunch. That’s it.
“For me, it’s a hobby, I’m not crazy about going from two to 1.7. I just don’t care about the handicap. I just care about having fun and (trying to) play good.
“I’m a competitve guy and I like to do well and, when I do it, I try my best.
“(But) I don’t go to the range. If I have hours free at home, I don’t go to the range by myself.”
Asked what he needed to do to reduce his handicap to scratch, Rafa, with a chuckle, said: “Probably I need to not play tennis any more, that’s all.”