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Monday, September 20, 2021

Explained: How injuries have been part and parcel of Rafael Nadal’s illustrious career

Rafael Nadal has been struggling with a chronic problem to his left foot, an ailment that has plagued him throughout this career.

Written by Shahid Judge | Mumbai |
Updated: August 22, 2021 12:37:02 pm
Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the US Open and says he will not play tennis again this year because of a nagging foot injury. (AP Photo: Nick Wass, File)

Barely a week since Roger Federer declared he would miss the rest of the 2021 season, Rafael Nadal too has opted to skip the rest of the year. The 35-year-old has been struggling with a foot injury, but a week ahead of the US Open, the World No 4 decided he will not be able to recover well enough to compete.

“I have been suffering too much with my foot for the last year now,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said in a video on social media.

“I needed to talk with my family, with my team and with my doctors especially to understand what is going on. But the foot is not the proper way today and during the last year I was not able to practice and prepare myself the way I need to be competitive at the standard I want to be. So we had to take that decision, but I am confident that I will recover myself 100 percent and I will be able to fight again for the most important things.”

Since his semi-final loss at the French Open, Nadal has skipped the Wimbledon Championships and the Tokyo Olympics. He did briefly return to the tour for the ATP 500 event in Washington DC, but did not look comfortable in his pre-quarterfinal defeat to South African player Lloyd Harris.

What is the injury that has forced Nadal out for the season?

The Spaniard has been struggling with a chronic problem to his left foot, an ailment that has plagued him throughout this career.

“The injury is nothing new,” he said. “It’s the same injury I am having since 2005. In that moment, the doctors were very negative about my future career, but honestly I was able to have a career that I never dreamed about, so I am confident I will recover again and if the foot is better, I am content my tennis and mentality will be there again soon.”

Nadal missed most of the 2005 clay season due to the stress fracture on his left foot, but recovered just in time to make a debut at the French Open – which he ended up winning.

 

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Is this the first major injury he’s suffered from in his career?

Now in his 20th year as a professional (he turned pro in 2001), Nadal’s career has been riddled with injuries despite the 88 titles he’s won along the way.

Along with the left foot injury, he’s had repetitive troubles with his left shoulder and tendonitis on both knees. He was forced out of the 2016 French Open because of a torn tendon in his left wrist (his playing arm).

Earlier this year, he missed playing the ATP Cup for Spain because of stiffness in his back and had to play through the problem at the Australian Open.

Is the US Open 2021 the first time he will miss a Grand Slam due to injury?

No. Since winning his first ever Grand Slam at the French Open in 2005, the upcoming US Open will be the seventh time he’s skipped competing at a Major due to injury. This will be the fourth time in his career that he’s missed the New York event though – three times due to injury.

A tendinitis problem in 2009 kept him out of the Wimbledon Championships. He missed the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open due to Hoffa’s syndrome in his left knee. He skipped the US Open in 2014 due to troubles with his right wrist, and then the torn tendon he suffered at the 2016 French Open kept him out of Wimbledon that year.

He did not travel to the US Open to defend his title in 2020 due to safety concerns as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on. Now the same foot problem that first ignited 16 years ago kept him out of Wimbledon and the US Open this year.

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What has Nadal’s 2021 season been like?

Despite starting and ending the season with injury (back and left foot respectively), Nadal did manage to win two tour titles – the ATP 500 event in Barcelona and the ATP 1000 Rome Masters in May.

In terms of his Grand Slam performances, he reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, but was upset by the in-form Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals – only his third ever loss at Roland Garros.

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