NEW YORK: Rafael Nadal admitted on Thursday that he has learned to enjoy suffering the pain of constantly battling the knee injuries which have threatened to derail his career.
The Spanish world number two moved comfortably into the US Open third round with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 win over Brazilian journeyman Rogerio Dutra Silva and has been the form player of 2013, claiming nine titles and building a 55-3 winning record.
But the 27-year-old spent seven months on the sidelines until February this year because of a knee injury that had caused him to miss the Olympics, last year’s US Open as well as the Australian Open in January.
It was a familiar story of misery for Nadal, who was out of action for nine weeks in 2009 after he suffered his only career loss at the French Open and was forced to walk away from his Wimbledon title defense.
Nadal insists that the pain has only made him stronger.
“When you are coming back after a hard times, after an injury, after moments that you are not well, so when you are having the chance to be back, is true to be back you need to work hard,” he said.
“You need to work with the right attitude every day. You need to be ready to suffer, to enjoy the suffering, and to be able to change the situation.”
It’s a philosophy which has served him well as he has collected 12 Grand Slam titles and 59 tournament triumphs in total in between the injury heartaches.
Nadal can even write off his shock first round Wimbledon exit as a blip, a tournament which came too quickly after his barnstorming run to an eighth French Open title in June.
After two rounds of the US Open, where he is the hot favorite for a second title to add to his 2010 victory, he now boasts a 17-0 record on hardcourts.
“When you are in a low situation, you still feel the love for sport, the passion for sport,” he added.
“After overcoming a tough situation, then you are ready to compete better than before. All my life I played with lot of passion. I love the sport. I love the competition.
“Not only tennis I love the tennis, sure, but I love the competition in general. I love the sport like a spectator. So have a chance to go on court in big stadiums that I saw on the TV when I was a kid, always is really special for me.
“So I feel very lucky and very happy to be back on the tour and playing well again.”
Thursday’s win, which edged him closer to a potential quarterfinals clash with old rival Roger Federer, was completed in just 92 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Dutra Silva, the world number 134, had come through qualifying and saved seven match points in his opening round victory over Vasek Pospisil, which was also the 29-year-old Brazilian’s first win on the main tour this year.
It was not the sort of form which was going to trouble the world number two.
Nadal swept to victory courtesy of eight breaks of serve and 30 winners and next faces Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, the world number 38 who surprisingly beat him the last time they met on hardcourt in Montreal in 2011.
“Dodig is a tough player. I lost to him the last time in a tough, close match. He has had two good wins here over Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko. He’s very dangerous,” said Nadal.