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Although the Brisbane International starts on December 30th there are no more appearances for Rafa in 2018.
30 Dec 2018 Brisbane International
Quite a few members disported themselves at the European clay tournaments.
Read earlier home page articles here.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
In a departure from our usual routine, in place of the annual VB Awards I am providing my personal round-up of the year.
I'm going to take it month by month and see what I can find on and off court.
Rafa went into the Australian Open without playing any warm-up tournaments. All he did was compete in a couple of exhibition "tournaments" - the Tie Break Tens and the Kooyong Classic. He didn't exactly cover himself in glory at either event.
The good part about the Australian Open (if shallow) was that he was wearing sleeveless shirts. The other good part was that he beat Damir Dzumhur with ease (6-1, 6-3, 6-1). This proved that Dzumhur had been a little over-the-top (OK, he was a tool) in celebrating his "win" in Florida in 2016 when Rafa was forced to retire.
The bad (and ugly) part was that he had to retire from his quarter final against Cilic due to a thigh injury.
Not a lot to say about February.
The good was him receiving the best sportsman of the year award during the 70th Mundo Deportivo Gala.
He turned up to play the Telcel Mexico Open in Acapulco but had to pull out when the problem with his thigh flared up again.
Even less to say about March. Continuing issues with his thigh meant he pulled out of both Indian Wells and Miami. the only good thing was that he held on to the number 1 spot as his closest rivals failed to deliver at those tournaments.
This was crunch time. The start of the all-too-short clay season.
First up was what would turn out to be his last appearance at a Davis Cup tie in its now defunct format.
Read all about it here.
Then it was his first Masters tournament of the year - Monte Carlo.
Regular readers will know this is my favourite. I've been there every year since 2006 and have seen all but the first trophy bite. It was special to be there for the 11th.
Without pause for breath he went on to Barcelona to get his second Undécima of the year.
Things went slightly awry at the start of the month when he failed to reach the semi final in Madrid. He did, however, notch up his 50th successive set to beat John McEnroe's long standing (34 years) record of successive sets won on a single surface. So that's one tick in the good column.
It was much better in Rome. He had to beat home favourite Fabio Fognini, old rival Novak Djokovic and Madrid champion Alexander Zverev in succession to win the title.
This gave him a new record 32 ATP Masters and set him up very nicely, thank you, for the big one.
Here we have it. The ultimate Undécima.
It's so special that I can't think of any words to sum it up with any level of justice. This plaque says enough.
I will just include this pic of Rafa at Le Mans because I've had a bit of a thing for him in racing overalls since that appearance in a go-kart at the fundraising event with Iker Casillas 10 years ago.
Embed from Getty Images
The joy of clay is over for another year and we move onto grass.
Rafa pulled out of Queens and warmed up for Wimbledon with a couple of exhibition matches at the Aspall Tennis Classic at the Hurlingham Club.
Wimbledon was going well until the scheduling disaster of the semi-final and what I will always think of as roofgate. 'Nuff said.
Highlight of the month was, of course, his 33rd ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto.
He pulled out of Cincinnati so our last views of him this month were in the 2018 Lotte New York Palace Invitational -
Arthur Ashe Kids' Day -
and at the start of the US Open.
This is when it all started to go a bit pear-shaped - again.
After battling through what many describe as a classic match against Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals he was forced to retire in the semi final.
The major news this month was tragic.
Here is a brief description from The Guardian
Rafael Nadal was at his training centre in Mallorca when freakishly heavy rainfall floods hit the nearby town of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar in October, killing 13 people. “It was terrible,” he said. “Scary, and very sad. I really lived that tragedy from very close.” Given his proximity to the floods, and connection with the town – much of his mother’s family are from Sant Llorenç – a response was inevitable. But Nadal’s was above expectations as he headed to Sant Llorenç himself to assist with the clear-up operation, opening the doors of his training centre as a shelter, and donating £900,000 to victims of the flooding. Mateu Puigròs, the town’s mayor, described the donation as “help from a special person for all of us, who shows his love for our land and his neighbours every day because he is one of us”.
He did intend to get back on court in the Paris Masters but pulled out with an abdominal injury.
Here is what Rafa said on Facebook:-
I am writing these words to you at the end of the season.
It was a difficult year, very good at the tennis level when I was able to play and at the same time very bad in terms of injuries. I have done everything possible to reach the end of the season in good condition, both in Paris and London, doing things well and I really wanted to play. Unfortunately I had the abdominal problem in Paris last week and, in addition, I have a free body in the ankle joint that has to be removed in the operating room today.
It is true that we had detected it for a long time and from time to time it bothered me. However, since the problem in the abdominal muscle also prevents me from playing in London, we take advantage of the moment to remove the free body and avoid future problems.
In this way, I hope to be in full condition for the next season.
Thank you all for your support.
The brilliant news, however, was that he won the Stephan Edberg Sportsmanship award.
In the middle of the month we were treated to some pictures of him playing golf in what Rafa described on Facebook as "Another wonderful event of the #rafanadalfoundation and #sportmundi for the benefit of those affected in Sant Llorenç by the floods. Thanks to all the participants and sponsors #olazabalnadalinvitational"
The year ended on a brief appearance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. Despite its grandiose title, this is an Exhibition "tournament".
In his first match since pulling out of the US Open back in September he lost a tight three-setter to Kevin Anderson and then elected not to play the third place play-off match.
So that was 2018. There were some real lows - two retirements in slams, five ATP Masters skipped and at least 4 months out due to injury. But the highs were just wonderful - three undécimas (Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros) and 5 tournament wins out of just 9 entered (only 2 defeats).
We look forward to 2019 with anticipation.