Rafael Nadal, who insists that his opinions about coronavirus measures were not political. | Fundación Rafa Nadal

Rafael Nadal has clarified that he has never spoken "ill" of the Spanish government and that he had merely expressed an opinion "with the utmost respect" about coronavirus measures. The tennis player has said that they had to take extreme measures because appropriate ones were not taken earlier.

"I have never spoken ill of any government. I expressed an opinion that I believed at the time, and the truth is that I gave this opinion with the utmost respect. What happens today is that absolutely nothing can be said, because unfortunately there is a radicalisation ... . I am not interested in taking part in this circus of hypocrisy and radicalisation."

Nadal has made his views clear in an interview in September's issue of GQ Magazine, which is published today. "First of all, I am a person, and I have no need to engage in politics or to want to benefit some or penalise others through what I say ... . I stand by what I said, and I would say it again, because I didn't say anything out of the ordinary. I said what I felt at the time. Why should I be unable to give my opinion on what I please, so long as it is with respect? I am a Spanish citizen like any other. I am an athlete, the same as others are engineers or electricians."

Towards the end of April, Nadal wondered why people were able to go to work or to play (being much closer than on a tennis court), while tennis players were unable to return to training as soon as possible. He then questioned the initial measures under the state of alarm de-confinement and the arrival of the new normal.

"That my statements have an impact does not depend on me. I am not going to enter into the radicalisation that many wish to implant in our society, and by which they try to turn everything into a controversy. It is now the case that when anything is said, it is political. The flag is political. If one says that what they have done is right or wrong, it is also political. One can no longer freely express what one believes because it is taken as speaking ill of the government."

As a consequence of Covid-19, Nadal says that "all sport is secondary when there are so many people suffering and so many families have lost loved ones". "For me, this is not something which concerns me, and I say this with my heart. It's all the same to me if the break from sport has been good, bad or normal, as over the months I have given tennis very little thought. There have been far more important things and enough misfortunes to consider, so it continues to be secondary. When things are good, I hope to be fully prepared to return to action and to be competitive."

Having withdrawn from the US Open, Nadal has not specified when he plans to return to the circuit. "I'm reserving my decision right now, because I am waiting to see how things evolve. When the time comes, I will make a decision and will do so after talking to my family and to my team. Together, we will make the decision which we think is best for us."

Asked about retirement, Nadal acknowledges that "everything has a beginning and everything has an ending". "I am not one of those people who fear the end. I believe that I respect it, but not fear it. When the end comes, it will be time to accept it and to continue looking for motivations in life." He concludes by asking Spain "to empower and help people who have the enthusiasm to get ahead by being courageous and committed and having the capacity for work and improvement".