Rafael Nadal announced on Friday that he intends to play Wimbledon this year despite concerns regarding his chronic foot injury. The Spaniard said that he will travel to London after positive training sessions this past week following the treatment he underwent on his foot in Barcelona.
“My intention is to play Wimbledon, but it will all depend on what happens with my body this next week,” the 36-year-old said at a press conference in Mallorca per Reuters. “I’m without pain for a week and have been practising, so it tells me there may be a chance to play in the tournament.”
Following the conclusion of the French Open – where he won a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd Grand Slam title – Nadal revealed that he was forced to use pain-killing injections to numb the pain in his left foot.
The step he took was dangerous, considering the lack of sensation in his left foot might have numbed him to an extent that it prevented him from noticing an injury that could have worsened the already weakened area.
The injury and the treatment
Nadal suffers from the Mueller-Weiss syndrome, a complex and rare degenerative condition in the foot, which causes blood to be cut off from the navicular bone. As a result of the condition, which Nadal has suffered since 2005, the Spaniard suffers chronic pain.
The injury has plagued him for virtually his whole career, and played a part in his semifinal defeat to Novak Djokovic at last year’s French Open, following which he was forced to skip the rest of the season and even get a minor surgery.
While he was able to play pain-free during his triumph at the Australian Open in February, the problem flared up during the clay season again. Nadal said after Roland Garros that the anasthetic injections he was taking was applied on the nerves and that he will be undergoing a “radio frequency” treatment to be able to burn part of the same nerves and numb them.
What’s Muller-Weiss syndrome
It is a degenerative condition primarily affecting the navicular bone (in red) in the foot. In most cases, it causes severe pain in the mid and hindfoot.
On Friday, Nadal revealed that although it may be too early to claim the treatment is succesful, the pain in his foot has eased and allowed him to practice at full tilt on the grass courts of the Mallorca Country Club this week.
“I have noticed changes with the treatment, still have strange sensations, sometimes I can’t feel my foot, but the pain that did not allow me to support my weight on my foot has subsided,” he said.
The Spaniard announced that he will assess his condition after a week of training on grass in the British capital, where he also plans to play an exhibition event in the lead-up to SW19. Nadal plans to play the Masters 1000 event in Canada, and the US Open next.
What’s at stake at Wimbledon?
Nadal’s remarkable comeback season this year has allowed him to take a commanding lead in the age-old Grand Slam race with Djokovic and Roger Federer. The trio were tied at 20 Majors apiece at the start of the year, before Nadal’s triumphs in Melbourne and Paris allowed him to reach a men’s record of 22 titles.
A win at Wimbledon will not only allow him to go 3 ahead of his big rivals, but it will also mean that Nadal will join Serena Williams as joint-second in the all-time Major title winners’ list. Willliams’ total of 23 is just behind Margaret Court, whose record of 24 has stood since 1973.
The Spaniard is also in the running to become the first man since Rod Laver to complete the Calendar Slam – winning all four Majors in a calendar year. Djokovic, who is the three-time defending champion at SW19, came incredibly close to completing the feat last year, just falling short against Daniil Medvedev in the final of the US Open.
But Nadal arrives in London to play the grass Major for the first time in three years. The Spaniard’s semifinal run in 2019 was followed by the pandemic year where the event was not held, and his foot injury stopped him from playing at last year’s edition. The last time he reached the final at SW19 was 2011, and the last time he won was in 2010.
The 36-year-old knows it will take him time to get used to the grass, and believes he will need to go step by step if he wants to put up an impressive showing at the All England Club. “Advancing in the first rounds is crucial. If you advance, you pick up the pace to reach the end. You have to survive no matter what,” he said.