London: Rafael Nadal had given consideration to returning to the fray after five frustrating months to play doubles for Spain in the Davis Cup final next weekend. He flirted with the idea; the points would be short, he could test his knee in match conditions, relish the camaraderie and he might even get a winner’s medal around his neck.
Spain have a doubles team in place, indeed Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez have done well enough on tour this year to be contesting the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, but the lure of bringing in Nadal would have been a difficult one for Alex Corretja, the captain, to resist. The idea was a nice one, but the player still could not be sure and eventually decided against it.
The concern persists over when Nadal, 26, will take to the courts again, a storyline that has dragged on since his defeat in the second round of Wimbledon. He wants everything to be right with his knee — you do not fool around when tendinitis strikes — but the long weeks of rehabilitation are eating away at his good humour.
In his absence in Prague, from Friday next week, the singles roles will be taken by David Ferrer — who could yet win the title at the O2 arena as a prelude to assuming the responsibility of being Spain’s standard-bearer — and Nicolas Almagro. The Czech Republic include Lukas Rosol, the man who defeated Nadal at Wimbledon, and their mainstay is Tomas Berdych.
There is so much in Berdych’s game to admire; he has the perfect physique and a formidable array of shots. But perhaps the two things that are holding him back from a more prominent challenge are that his game needs to become more than one-dimensional and he has to believe more that he belongs.
He is the sixth-best player in the world on present rankings and yet to watch him sometimes you would think he was the 26th.
He looked ashen on Friday, the cumulative effect of not being able to take Novak Djokovic to a third set when he had the second by the scruff of the neck and the thought that there are still a couple of best-of-five-set exercises ahead of him before he can laze on a beach with his girlfriend, the model Ester Satorova.
Questions about the Davis Cup final to come drew deep sighs from him, and an attempt to talk about the event when he did not really want to. “It’s just another big event coming up for the end of the year,” he said.
“I’m getting even more tired, and that’s it. I’m going to try to prepare myself as best I can for it. Today wasn’t one of my best matches with him (Berdych has won only once in 12 meetings with Djokovic, in the 2010 Wimbledon semi-finals).
Asked whether he thought the Serb played well enough to win the tournament, he responded icily. “It was good enough to beat me,” he said. And so, of which of his achievements in 2012 was he most proud? “It will be a very short answer. I hope that the best moment is still to come.”