When the trainer visited Rafael Nadal in his thrilling quarterfinal win over Denis Shapovalov at Australian Open 2022 on Tuesday, memories of injury heartache for the Spaniard at Melbourne Park might have resurfaced.
And there have been plenty of instances.
A hip problem forced Nadal to retire in 2018 against Marin Cilic, and four years earlier a back issue caused havoc in the final against an inspired Stan Wawrinka.
Among other occasions, a hamstring injury in 2011 against David Ferrer – when Nadal sought a fourth straight major – heavily impacted the now 35-year-old.
But on Tuesday, Nadal overcame his physical issues in the draining Melbourne heat – calling it a "bit of a miracle" – to continue his pursuit of landing a second Australian Open crown and Grand Slam title No. 21. He scraped past the flashy Canadian 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 in four hours, eight minutes.
He was grateful to have two days off ahead of his semifinal after a schedule change that now sees both men's matches contested on Friday, instead of splitting them on Thursday and Friday.
"I think can be important to have these two days off after this brutal thing today out there, no?" Nadal said. "The conditions were hard. Yeah, of course gonna help."
The veteran trainer, Paul Ness, came on court in the fourth set but Nadal, who tugged at his stomach, said his distress began at the end of the second as temperatures hit 30 degrees Celsius with humidity at roughly 60 percent.
Tough conditions, and perhaps tougher for an undercooked Nadal, who only played two matches in 2021 after the French Open due to a foot injury before catching Covid in December.
"I think of course all these kind of matches helps to me to be in better shape, but we can't forget that I didn't play much tennis for such a long time, no?" said Nadal.
"So under these very hard conditions, is difficult for me.
"Of course in the beginning of the fifth set if I was very worried. But more than worried, I thought going to be super difficult to win that match, no? But here I am. Being in semifinals means a lot to me … against a great player after all the things that I went through, so it's an amazing news, no? I'm super happy."
Nadal stood on the other side of the net when a 35-year-old returning from injury – Roger Federer – won the Australian Open in 2017. Could Nadal emulate his friend on Sunday?
He is not one to look that far ahead, and used a familiar analogy when asked about his Grand Slam chase alongside Federer and Novak Djokovic.
"Of course the last six months have been a lot of doubts if I would be able to keep going," said Nadal, a title winner in a Melbourne warmup in early January.
"But now I feel good, no? We are in a position that we won a tournament, we are in semifinals of Australian Open, so that's amazing for me.
"In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don't care that much. I don't believe that my happiness, my future happiness gonna depend on if I achieve one more Grand Slam than the others, or if the others achieve more Grand Slams than me.
"No, I am super satisfied and feel very lucky person in general for all the things that happen to me in this life, no? I have a way to approach life.
"You can't be always frustrated if the other, if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing, no? I'm not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes the career with more Grand Slams than me, no?"