August 29, 2011
At a pre-tournament press conference over the weekend, Rafael Nadal dismissed questions about his parents' separation and subsequent reconciliation.
"I know the problems," he said when asked about how the conflict between his mother and father affected his game, "but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don't want to talk about that now."
That's an understandable sentiment. It can't be comfortable for any person, athlete or not, to discuss intimate family problems with anyone, let alone a gaggle of reporters ready to transmit the transcript to a worldwide audience. I don't blame Nadal for not wanting to talk about his parents' marital woes. What business is it of ours?
Ah, but it is our business because Nadal himself made it so. He has discussed how his parents' separation hurt his game in 2009 and wrote about his feellings at length in his new autobiography, "Rafa."
"My parents were the pillar of my life and that pillar had crumbled. The continuity I so valued in my life has been cut in half, and the emotional order I depend on how been dealt a shocking blow. Another family with grown-up children (I was 22 and my sister, 18) might have taken a marial separation more in its stride. But this was not possible in a family as close and united as ours, where there had been no conflict visible, where all we had ever seen was harmony and good cheer. Assimilating the news that my parents had been going through such a crisis after nearly 30 years of marriage was heartbreaking. My family had always been the holy, untouchable core of my life, my center of stability anda living album of my wonderful childhood memories. Suddenly, and utterly without warning, the happy family portrait had cracked."
I have as little interest in reading about Nadal's parents' marriage than I do in listening to him talk about. It makes me uncomfortable to even write about it. He opened the discussion, though, and has to realize it's fair game. Nadal can pick and choose when and where he wants to talk about his family. What he can't do is get upset or dismissive when reporters try to bring it up.
Other athletes get superficial family questions -- "How are the twins, Roger?" -- because that's all they invite. Serena Williams has been involved in high-profile relationships but rarely gets asked about them because she never discusses them in any form.
Nadal did and now he's being forced to listen to questions he'd rather not answer. Fine. But if you don't want to talk about personal things, don't put out a soul-searching book the week before the U.S. Open and promote it on Letterman.