RAFAEL NADAL’s chronic foot injury flared up during his Italian Open third-round exit last week.
Rafael Nadal’s latest issue with his chronic foot injury has raised concern for two pros in Barbara Rittner and Mischa Zverev. The former ATP world No 25, who now helps in coaching his third-ranked brother Alexander Zverev, admitted that things felt “different” this time around and questioned whether the Spaniard would be able to bounce back like he has before or forced to retire, with the French Open looming.
Nadal was forced to miss the last six months of the 2021 season as a result of his chronic foot injury but made a triumphant return in January, winning a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open as well as titles in Melbourne and Acapulco in a 20 match-winning streak. But the issue resurfaced again during his third-round exit from the Italian Open, and has left Zverev questioning whether the 35-year-old can recover this time around.
“You can be positive and have strength and energy in your head. But now first the ribs, then the foot – and then sometimes he’s also tired or at least looks tired on the pitch. There are just too many problems that come up too often,” the 2018 Eastbourne champion told Eurosport.
“It’s like a car that has a trouble every few kilometres. I have such a mixed feeling about Rafa this year. Either he will charm us as always with his clay court tennis in Paris or we will see a Rafa this year who is really a bit more tired than usual. And that would be a sad thing.” After blowing a one-set lead over Denis Shapovalov when his foot started causing him pain in Rome, the world No 5 admitted that he was not injured but “a player living with an injury”.
And retired former WTA world No 24 Rittner also raised questions about how much longer Nadal could push through the pain, though she was more optimistic about a successful comeback like the one he produced in Australia earlier this year. “Everyone knows how demoralising physical pain is. If anyone can handle it, it’s Rafael Nadal. He has shown repeatedly how impressively he can come back after injury breaks,” she confessed.
“But I have the feeling it’s a bit different now – the way he expresses himself, with this scepticism. At some point there’s also the question: ‘When does the pain become so great that it overrides the motivation I still have?’
“Nonetheless, I always think fondly of that glorious final in Melbourne and how much joy he gave us there. Of course, everyone wonders, can he get that out of himself again in Paris – in his very own tournament?”
The 13-time French Open champion has already arrived in Paris ahead of the tournament, where he is travelling with his doctor following his injury scare in Rome. He arrived in Wednesday and practised twice on Court Philippe-Chartier with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jaume Munar, with many reporting that the Spaniard already looked better than he did six days earlier when he crashed out of the Italian Open.