Thanks Herc and all the others for these thoughts. On the subject of Rotterdam, I want to pitch in the following thoughts.
Rafa told Krajicek last year that he would come to Rotterdam again this year if he was #1; and that, if he wasn't number #1, he'd play the South American circuit. I'd surmise from what we know of Rafa that it was less a quality of greed that bade him to the Netherlands, but two other things.
First, he sticks to his word. To himself and his tennis, first and foremost -- it's part of what makes him such a great champion and gives him such honest drive to play and to win as much as he can. "I'm gonna try my best." (Which is only the understatement of the century when you've seen him battle for break points.) But I think he takes his word very seriously, if he's learned anything of Uncle Toni's philosophy, it's that. Indeed, he keeps his word too seriously. Kracijek would have been happy with two lackluster sets and a sound Murray win. But not Rafa, he said he was gonna try his best this week. And that's what makes him the freaking champion that he is. Don't play too hard? He's learning, but like playing on hardcourts, not playing too hard's not his natural style.
Second, and maybe more important, the Rotterdam tournament may have seemed logistically sound. Rafa likes to stick close to home for as long as he can, and Rotterdam's a quick flight from Majorca, where he could stay for a week until Dubai (or, if he skips Dubai, three weeks at home before Indian Wells). Otherwise he'd have to fly all over South America, go back to Europe(?) for a week, and fly to North America for another month. Much easier to stay on the continent. Additionally, it would have seemed to offer him some practise with US Open balls on a fast indoor court, keeping him motivated on the ultimate goal, the summer assault on the calendar slam. Don't play at all? Well, they have 4 500 events that are mandatory. Play one now, then play 2 more at Monte-Carlo (though that one confuses me, does it count toward 500s?) and Barca and he can take it easy after the US Open. Again, in retrospect it was probably a mistake, but he could not have anticipated the massive effort it took to win the Australian; but he was on a roll, and then, he had given his word.
Dubai is of course a ridiculous prospect, all the more so because of the new, apparently geopolitical ramifications. The ATP needs balls, but I'm sure Roger's a vocal proponent of the Dubai tourney.
Murray was quoted after the win -- I like Andy's game quite a bit, he's quick and cunning -- as saying that knee pain was something Rafa said he experienced when he played a lot on hard courts.
According to El Pais (and this is a very loose translation), Rafa said, "It was not my best day. Effectively, I had problems, but I don't want to talk much on this. Andy played very well and he beat me...my right knee has been hurting these last days and the pain was more alive during the final. It hurt to lean on, especially on the service, although I don't think it is very grave. We will see how it evolves, but I hope I can play in Dubai..." El Pais then quotes Nadal's doctor, who says Nadal was controlling the pain during the week, and that this injury was an inflammation of a knee tendon, nothing like the sprain he had last fall. They are treating it with ice and anti-inflammatories.
He was clearly in pain, but from all indications it doesn't seem like a major injury if it's just tendonitis and not a sprain. Though he hits a nice backhand on one leg, he needs to relax.
Rafa dreams big and always wants to play and he doesn't know what's best for himself; yes, Hercules, he will figure that out one way or another. Rotterdam, though seemingly a strange choice, made some sense for him if he rationalized it like that. And finally, yeah, he's been hobbling around since Tsonga, but he'll live to play another day.
He always wants to prove himself. He is, in a sense, driven by the narrative we create for tennis players (win the grand slam, play on all surfaces, don't be a clay-court-only-pony); he is, that way, living our dreams. If only Acapulco had more cachet, no?
Sorry I'm new here and have no avatar yet. Oh yeah, and, hi tennis people!