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The paradise where Nadal finds peace

From Pedro Pinto and James Masters, CNN
August 17, 2012 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Nadal has shunned the chance to leave his island home of Mallorca
  • World number three will miss this month's U.S. Open with knee problems
  • Spaniards admits he has grown to live with his fame despite being shy
  • His uncle and coach Toni backs Rafa to fight back from his latest setbacks

(CNN) -- There are not many places where Rafael Nadal can escape.

As one of the world's most high-profile athletes, his every move is under scrutiny -- especially now after his withdrawal from the London 2012 Olympics and this month's U.S. Open has created widespread speculation about his future as a force in tennis.

He's one of the most intense men to step foot on a court, and his aggressive, muscular style has contributed to the injuries that have blighted his career in recent years, meaning he has required long periods of recuperation.

So where does the Spaniard go when he wants to get away from it all and recover from his punishing schedule?

An island paradise he calls home.

"What Mallorca gives Rafael is tranquility," the 26-year-old's coach and uncle Toni Nadal told CNN.

CNN's Open Court show visited Rafael Nadal at his home island of Mallorca, where he was interviewed by Pedro Pinto. CNN's Open Court show visited Rafael Nadal at his home island of Mallorca, where he was interviewed by Pedro Pinto.
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"He feels comfortable here. The Mallorcan character is very familiar, not only our family, but most of the Mallorcan families.

"Apart from being very familiar, we are people who normally love our homeland. We all feel very comfortable here, no? Therefore, for Rafael it's normal. He's got his friends here, his family, his birthplace, he's always had a good grounding."

Tennis rivals fear for injured Nadal's future

While many sports stars move to glamorous tax havens such as Monaco, Nadal chooses to stay close to his roots -- and the beautiful Balearic island has its attractions.

From Claudia Schiffer to Boris Becker and even the King of Spain himself, it has played host to the rich and famous for many years.

Located just off the coast of Spain in the western Mediterranean, about 209 kilometers south of Barcelona and 241 km east of Valencia, Mallorca is the largest of a group of islands including Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.

With its idyllic mountains, golden beaches and fertile strips of green, it is little wonder that one of tennis' most successful men has remained in his home city rather than move abroad.

"It's true that there are many people that when they've traveled, when they've had some success, it's normal for them to change the place they live," said Toni Nadal, who has coached Rafa since he was a small boy.

"Here in Mallorca it is less normal, because people here feels very attached to our homeland. I think that's the reason why Rafael is still here. First because he loves Mallorca, he loves the sea, he likes being close to the family and his lifelong friends. That's what I think is stopping him from going to other places."

Injury forces Nadal out of U.S. Open

There's also the fact that the 11-time grand slam champion, who won a record seventh French Open title in June, does not actually enjoy all the publicity he receives.

Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is by no means a grass-court specialist, but the two-time Wimbledon champion's defeat by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol has been hailed as one of sport's greatest upsets. Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is by no means a grass-court specialist, but the two-time Wimbledon champion's defeat by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol has been hailed as one of sport's greatest upsets.
Nadal's nadir?
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The greatest sporting upsets The greatest sporting upsets
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after beating Novak Djokovic of Serbia to win his seventh French Open title in Paris on Monday, June 11. Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after beating Novak Djokovic of Serbia to win his seventh French Open title in Paris on Monday, June 11.
Rafael Nadal wins French Open
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Rafael Nadal wins French Open Rafael Nadal wins French Open

"You know, I am shy," Nadal told CNN's Open Court just days after pulling out of the Olympics due to his ongoing knee problems.

"I am a little less shy than I was a few years ago. That is something that is difficult to lose, but it is something that happens very often for me.

"I think I have learned a lot the last couple of years and I am able to relax a little bit more when I am with people. I enjoy it a little bit more than a few years ago, because I have a little bit more experience, and I have been in the same situation for a lot of times."

For some, the whirlwind rise to stardom may have proved difficult to adapt to with constant television coverage, sponsorship deals and attention coming from all directions.

Although he is still adapting to the limelight, Nadal said he has come to terms with his position and the benefits it has brought.

Nadal forced to withdraw from London Olympics

"I am a very lucky guy about what has happened to me. So I cannot pretend to have everything that I have and not have a camera there or not have attention there," he said.

"I really feel comfortable with that. I feel very lucky. Seriously, when I am here at home I really don't have attention on me. I am a really normal guy and that's very important to me."

Nadal remains one of the most down to earth sportsmen in the public eye and his desire to escape attention by staying in Mallorca and remaining with friends and family is somewhat of an anomaly.

Those relationships have helped him to remain focused on his tennis and escape the pitfalls that fame often brings.

Rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal embrace during the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 30 this year. The match was the longest in grand slam history at five hours and 53 minutes. Djokovic won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5.
Rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal embrace during the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 30 this year. The match was the longest in grand slam history at five hours and 53 minutes. Djokovic won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5.
Record-breaking rivals
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Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Novak Djokovic of Serbia will be hoping to defend their Wimbledon titles in July -- earning a 4.5% increase in prize money if they do. Singles champions will now receive £1.15 millon ($1.85 million). <br/><br/> Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Novak Djokovic of Serbia will be hoping to defend their Wimbledon titles in July -- earning a 4.5% increase in prize money if they do. Singles champions will now receive £1.15 millon ($1.85 million).

Wimbledon champions - £1.15 million
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"I always like to do the things that I think are right," he said. "I am not trying to be a model, I am trying to be myself and do the right things.

"If what I am doing is a model, or is an example, is the right example, I am very happy, but I don't pretend that."

The 100th-ranked player who defeated Nadal

Since suffering a second-round shock defeat at Wimbledon against the world number 100 Lukas Rosol, Nadal has been suffering with a recurrence of his injuries.

While the world No. 3 will be resting the tendonitis in his left knee, his rivals will be competing for glory at Flushing Meadows.

Having missed much of the 2009 season with a similar injury, this latest setback has been all too familiar.

Nadal's disappointment at missing the Olympics was exacerbated by the fact he had to relinquish his role as the Spanish flagbearer at the opening ceremony.

And while Nadal's presence will be sorely missed in New York, his uncle remains philosophical about his nephew's future.

"I said to him that life had treated him well enough to accept this disappointment," explained Toni.

"I said that he's seen himself in worse situations, worse situations of injury. It's a disappointment, but it's not the end of the world."

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