Will Rafael Nadal's Chronic Foot Injury Put an End to His Career?

© AFP 2023 / ANDREAS SOLAROSpain's Rafael Nadal returns to USA's John Isner during their first round match at the ATP Rome Open tennis tournament on May 11, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome
Spain's Rafael Nadal returns to USA's John Isner during their first round match at the ATP Rome Open tennis tournament on May 11, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.05.2022
Injuries and Rafael Nadal have something in common - both keep coming back. While the Spaniard is known for his on-court resilience and fighting spirit, his fitness problems seem to be never-ending, as they continue to haunt him even today. Once again, an issue with his foot has cropped up, putting clouds of uncertainty over his tennis future.
Rafael Nadal's foot injury, which he termed as "incurable" quite recently, flared up once more during his Round of 16 defeat to Canadian Denis Shapovalov at the Rome Masters last week.

The reigning Australian Open champion has suffered from Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a rare disease that causes extreme pain in the middle of the foot, since the beginning of his career as a teenager.

Nadal has been smart enough to manage the condition since 2005, but he's now only a month shy of his 36th birthday, and overcoming the discomfort is possibly becoming more and more difficult for him with each passing day.

Last year, the same injury kept the southpaw out of action for more than six months, having shut down his season in June after getting beaten by Novak Djokovic in the French Open semis.

Often the 21-time Grand Slam champion has taken anti-inflammatory injections to relieve the pain and the diagnosis has even affected his regular life outside the court.

While Nadal has made his way back on the practice courts, this will be just the second time he appears in the French Open without having won a title on red clay.

The only occasion when the Majorcan won the Roland Garros without securing a clay-court trophy was in 2020, when the prestigious event was moved to October from its customary May-June schedule.

Even Nadal has understood the gravity of the situation facing him and has even hinted at retirement if things don't improve drastically in the next few months.

"Let's see for how long I can keep going or until my head tells me otherwise because right now, I must accept my days are like this", Nadal said last week.

"There will be a moment where my head will ask me to stop because I cannot keep going, not just thinking about tennis but thinking about normal life. That's my reality", he added.

Nadal has made many epic comebacks during his illustrious career, but persistent issues with his foot seem to be giving him nightmares.

Earlier, the pain used to bother him, but wasn't "unbearable" for lengthy periods. To minimise its impact on his body, the 35-year-old used to take a significant amount of time away from the court and when he returned, he could compete on the ATP tour for a couple of months.

However, this year has been different as the pain has been a factor in both his recent losses in Madrid and Rome.
It has been a shocking turnaround for the World No. 4, who has experienced an epic contrast in fortunes in 2022.
While he was in complete control of his fate in his first 20 matches, winning all of them, including a record-breaking 21st Major trophy in Melbourne, the second half was all about injuries.
Initially, it was a rib injury that forced Nadal into absence, but after a month-and-a-half layoff, when he returned, his troubles were all related to his foot.

Nadal could be heading the Federer way in the injury department, as it was a knee problem that brought the Swiss maestro's illustrious career to a halt in 2020.

Although Federer made a comeback to action last year, he never looked like the player he once was and even lost to a not-so-famous player in straight sets at Wimbledon's Centre Court, a place the 40-year-old used to call his den.

There's no doubt that Nadal is a different beast than his good friend Federer, but when injuries start taking a toll on a player mentally, they tend to signal in one direction - retirement.

Despite Nadal's increasing frailty to injuries, seven-time Indian national tennis champion Gaurav Natekar backed him to win another Grand Slam title before declaring that Nadal wasn't going anywhere at least for the next 18 months.

"Nadal may be injured, but you can only count him out of French Open contention at your peril", Natekar told Sputnik.

"The guy has won the title in Paris a record 13 times, has mounted several comebacks and we have even seen him recovering from multiple fitness problems in the past. I doubt he would hang up his racquet so quickly, at least not before giving his injury a good fight", he added.
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