“Rafael Nadal is not playing for money” – Jimmy Connors draws comparison to Tiger Woods, defends Spaniard’s Indian Wells withdrawal after Netflix Slam

Jimmy Connors recently came to Rafael Nadal’s defense following the Spaniard’s withdrawal from the Indian Wells Open, comparing this stage of his career to that of American golf legend Tiger Woods.


Rafael Nadal kicked off his 2024 season at the Brisbane International, where he reached the quarterfinals but was knocked out by Jordan Thompson, sustaining an injury during the tie.


Nevertheless, Nadal recovered and competed at the NetflixSlam in Las Vegas on March 3 against his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition match.


Nadal, who had previously confirmed his participation in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, withdrew from the tournament just before his first match, saying that he did not find himself to play at the highest level.


The Spaniard received criticism from fans, particularly when he started practicing on clay after his withdrawal from Indian Wells. However, former World No. 1 Jimmy Connors came to his defense while speaking on the “Advantage Connors” podcast.


The 71-year-old said that despite Nadal participating in the Netflix Slam exhibition event, it was not considered real competition. He stressed that the Spaniard reached a stage in his career where monitoring his health weekly was crucial.


“You know as much as you want to talk about exhibition and things like that is not for real and you know obviously, let’s face it, he’s come to a point in his career where his health is something worth looking at every week,” Jimmy Connors said (29:00)



Connors further compared Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the Indian Wells Open to Tiger Woods’ withdrawal at the 2024 Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in February. He added that as athletes got older, handling such situations became more challenging, and there was a need for intensified training efforts.


“Compare him to Tiger a little bit, Tiger entered the tournament Riviera, tries to go out and play and then get sick the next day and you enter and you pull out and I’m saying from experience that when you get older,” Connors said.


“Things don’t come as easy to you, everybody knows that so you gotta work harder and train harder and you go on and you think you can play your normal game,” he added.


The American also said that the 37-year-old was passionate about the sport, and his return wasn’t motivated by money, considering the substantial amount he earned from tennis in the past.


“Things have changed because the amount of money they are playing for now and surely the amount of money that he’s made, he’s not playing for the money,” Connors said.


“You come back and you play because you love the game, you love the competition and you love everything that goes with trying to win everytime you walk out there, and his competitiveness has always been at the very top,” he added.



Jimmy Connors pointed out that Nadal consistently invested significant energy into his game, a commitment he has upheld since the early stages of his career.


“Let’s face it Rafa put an awful lot of effort into his style and that was it from the very beginning,” Jimmy Connors said


The Spaniard turned professional in 2001 at the age of 15, and since then, he has achieved an impressive record of 92 singles titles on the ATP Tour, including 22 Grand Slam victories.


Nadal has played just three matches so far in 2024, with two wins.


What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here



Gideon Canice

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