Rafael Nadal has expressed his gratitude towards Serena Williams for the inspiration and influence the American has provided throughout her years within tennis.
“Plenty of memories,” Nadal said, smiling, before Williams’s imminent retirement from the game. “She is one of the greatest sports [people] of all time. I feel lucky to share a tour for a long period of time with her.
“Of course, from a selfish point of view it’s sad that she’s leaving the tour but, on the other hand, we can’t thank her enough for all the things that she did for our sport.”
The Spaniard added: “I think she’s an amazing inspiration for a lot of people around the world and I think she deserves to choose whatever works for her better at this stage off her life. So I wish her all the best.”
The Western & Southern Open marks Nadal’s return to competition for the first time since he withdrew before his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios a month ago after sustaining an abdominal tear. Nadal had been scheduled to compete at the National Bank Open in Montreal last week but because of some lingering discomfort in his abdominal muscle he withdrew.
Although he said things are progressing well, Nadal spoke cautiously about his return. “I hope to be ready,” he said.
“Of course, I had a small tear in the abdominal so it’s dangerous. The abdominal is the place that is dangerous because in every serve you put a lot of effort there, so I need to take things a little bit easier and do the highs the proper way.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. Try to be a little more conservative but I hope I can be ready to play.”
Nadal said he started to serve again only last week, initially with just 10 serves in the session and serving softly before very gradually increasing the load.
He played his first set only two days ago and will return at the latest possible time on Wednesday night. “Of course, I need some more days to analyse how things are going in terms of abdominal feeling,” he said.
“Because at the end of the day it’s more than one month without serving and without playing any set. So I need to analyse after every day that the abdominal is still OK with no feeling because, as I said, it’s a dangerous thing.
“But things are going well for the moment, so hopefully I can manage to be ready. I’m excited. I want to play tennis again on the tour. I’m having a good season, I’m enjoying it, so I want to enjoy this week in Cincinnati.”