Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal has added his voice to players who are worried about holding this year’s Tokyo Olympics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he has to be flexible and cannot give a clear answer until he organises his schedule for the year.
Japan has extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas until the end of May as the country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases, raising new questions about whether the rescheduled July 23-August 8 Games should go ahead.
Number three rank Nadal, who won a singles gold in Beijing 2008 and added a doubles title in Rio de Janeiro eight years later partnering Marc Lopez, said that he is yet to firm up his plans on travelling to Tokyo.
“I don’t know yet. Honestly I can’t give you a clear answer because I don’t know. I don’t know my calendar,” Nadal told a news conference at the Rome Masters.
“In a normal world I’ll never think about missing Olympics. There’s no doubt about that. Everybody knows how important it has been for me to always play in the Olympics.
“Under these circumstances, I don’t know. Let’s see what’s going on in the next couple of months. I need to organise my schedule… In a normal year, I know my schedule almost 100 per cent from January 1 until the end of the season.”
Japan’s top-ranked men’s and women’s players – Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka – have also raised concerns about staging the Games amid the pandemic.
“Of course, I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” Osaka said.
“But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year.”
Nishikori expressed his own doubts.
“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” he said after winning his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
Four-time champion Serena Williams suggested she wouldn’t go to Japan if coronavirus protocols meant she couldn’t bring her three-year-old daughter.
“This year is a bit different, no? We need to be flexible. We need to adapt about things that are happening,” Nadal said.
The 20-times Grand Slam champion, who was beaten in straight sets by Alexander Zverev in last week’s Madrid Open, opens his Rome Masters campaign against local favourite Jannik Sinner on Wednesday.
“Tomorrow is going to be a tough start, one of the toughest possible against Sinner,” Nadal said.
The Tokyo Olympics were postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Public sentiment in Japan continues to run against holding the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic.
Between 60-80 per cent of Japanese people in polls have said the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed.