Tennis: Rafael Nadal absent from Rome Masters due to injury

Rafael Nadal withdrew from next week’s Rome tournament on Friday, casting serious doubts over his suitability for French Open as well as potential questions about the rest of his career.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner has not played since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open in January.

In all, he has made just four appearances in 2023, picking up just one win.

The French Open, which the 36-year-old has won a record 14 times, begins in Paris on May 28.

Nadal said his injury situation had improved in recent days but not enough to be able to compete next week in the Italian capital where he was a 10-time champion.

“You all know how much it hurts me to miss another of the tournaments that marked my professional and personal career,” Nadal wrote on Instagram.

‘No choice’

“Although I have noticed an improvement in recent days, it has been several months without being able to train at a high level and the process of readjustment takes some time, and I have no choice but to accept this and continue functioning.”

The 22-time Major winner – he shares the men’s record with Novak Djokovic – initially thought he would be out for up to two months.

He pulled out of hard-court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, aiming for a return early in the clay-court season, but that did not materialize.

Nadal had to withdraw from Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, before finally adding Rome, the final French Open warm-up event, to the list.

World number two Carlos Alcaraz has said he hopes his compatriot returns to compete at Ronald Garros at his best.

“It’s a shame to see Rafa miss the tournaments and the clay court tour, which is the most special for him,” Alcaraz told a press conference on Friday, after reaching the Madrid Open final. .

“Health comes first and if he decided not to go to Rome, he will have seen that he was not ready.

“I hope to see him at Roland Garros 100 percent. The world wants to see him 100 percent.”

Nadal has been plagued by a succession of ankle, knee, elbow, wrist and now hip issues, which also contributed to him losing his place in the world top 10 for the first time in 18 years. .

In his career, which spans more than 20 years, the Spaniard has missed 11 Grand Slams and retired five times mid-tournament in major tournaments.

When Nadal won a 14th French Open beating Casper Ruud in the 2022 final, he revealed he needed daily injections of painkillers in his foot just to see the two-week event.

He then underwent radical surgery, having the nerves burned in his foot to eradicate the pain.

Nadal then progressed to the Wimbledon semi-finals but a much-anticipated showdown with Nick Kyrgios was scrapped after the Spaniard failed to recover from abdominal strain.

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open where he was hampered by a hip problem in his shock second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald.

It was his first Grand Slam outing since 2016.

For Nadal, this was familiar territory.

A left foot problem caused him to miss Wimbledon, the US Open and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Nadal only returned to prepare for the 2022 Australian Open, which he won for the second time, 13 years later. His first.

But after losing to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final, the Spaniard had to skip the start of the clay-court season in Monte Carlo and Barcelona due to a stress fracture in his ribs.

“It always hurts”

Many pundits have consistently predicted that Nadal would struggle to enjoy a long career due to his grueling style of play, but he has proven them wrong time and time again.

His first injury absence came at the age of 16 in 2003 when he injured his elbow in a fall during training and had to miss the French Open.

He was forced to miss at least one tournament every year of his career.

Despite missing so many events, Nadal’s drive to win still saw him claim 92 titles and win 1,068 matches on tour.

“It hurts like always,” Nadal said after his loss to McDonald’s in Australia.

“But in the end the glass fills up,” he added in Spanish, a phrase that means getting fed up or reaching your limit.

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