The world No. 1 Rafael Nadal gave an unexpected glimpse yesterday into the mindset of his old friend and rival Andy Murray. And although Nadal was sympathetic and supportive, his comments were not wholly encouraging about the state of Murray’s troublesome right hip.
A couple of hours after crushing world No. 7 Dominic Thiem by a devastating 6-0, 6-2 scoreline, Nadal was asked whether the leading players ever exchanged information about injuries and medical techniques. In reply, he revealed some details of a phone call that he and Murray had shared earlier this month.
“I spoke with him [Murray] with the phone two weeks ago,” said Nadal. “Doesn't matter if we are rivals, for me the friendship is before the tennis court. If any player have any doubts about the injuries or treatment that I do, I am always very happy to tell them my experience. I tell him the things that I think worked for me. Then, of course, he has his group and he will decide.
“I have been in that situation,” added Nadal.
“I know how tough and frustrating is when you work every day and you don't see the light of how to improve. You don't see any improvements. But then one day trying things, trying treatments, one day things are going better, no? That's what I really hope about him because he is important, very important, for our tour.”
A fortnight ago, Murray would have been coming towards the end of a short training block at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice, just 15 miles or so from the Monte Carlo Country Club, where Nadal is now carrying all before him.
That visit began with a sense of optimism and a flow of social-media posts. Since then, though, the shutters have come down once again, rather as they did before Christmas when Murray began to feel reservations about his scheduled comeback date in Brisbane at the start of the year.
The clock continues to tick as we move towards the start of the Lawn Tennis Association’s new Loughborough Challenger on May 19, which is Murray’s next target. At one point, he was thought to have harboured ambitions of appearing in the LTA’s other new event – next week’s Glasgow Challenger in Scotstoun – alongside that other absent friend Dan Evans, but that now seems to be off the menu.
Nadal’s admission that he discussed his “treatments” with Murray is interesting. He is known to have addressed his persistent knee problems via a technique called PRP – a WADA-approved process in which your own blood is passed through a centrifuge, creating a thick soup known as platelet-rich plasma which is then reinjected into your body. The mixture has been shown to promote healing, and to raise the body’s own production of human-growth hormone.
Despite a couple of half-paced exhibition appearances, Murray’s last official match remains the Wimbledon quarter-final of July 12. No-one outside his immediate circle really knows how close he is to full fitness.
But Nadal is clearly operating at full force after yesterday’s rout, even admitting afterwards that “I know is difficult to play better than today.” His reward was a semi-final date with Grigor Dimitrov, the world No. 5, who withdraw from the doubles citing a shoulder problem, but was expected to be in good enough shape to compete.
“One-handers [backhands] is not the easiest thing on clay,” Dimitrov told Sky Sports yesterday after closing out a 6-4, 7-6 win over David Goffin. “I had to save myself a little bit.”