A chronic foot issue may be the biggest threat to Rafa Nadal’s bid for a record-extending 14th French Open trophy this month, with the injury preventing the Spaniard from rediscovering the kind of form he will need to see off a host of challengers.
Nadal, who is also looking for a 22nd major title that would give him a little more breathing space ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, had said he considered retirement after missing the bulk of 2021 due to the problem.
The 35-year-old did not look to have lost a step at the Australian Open earlier this year, however, his triumph on Melbourne’s hardcourts giving him a record 21st Grand Slam title to break a three-way tie with Federer and Djokovic.
Injury issues struck again in March when he suffered a stress fracture in his rib during his run to the Indian Wells final and the left-hander only returned to competition in Madrid this month.
In a further jolt to his French Open hopes, Nadal was beaten by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid quarter-finals before losing to Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Rome Masters.
“I had my foot again with a lot of pain,” a frustrated Nadal told reporters after his loss to Shapovalov. “I am a player living with an injury – it is nothing new.
“Unfortunately, my day-by-day is difficult, honestly. Even like this, I am trying hard … it can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”
Any doubts about his participation in the French Open, which starts on Sunday and ends with the men’s final on 5 June, were laid to rest when he appeared on Court Philippe Chatrier on Wednesday for a practice session and showed no signs of discomfort.
Nadal had won the French Open four years in a row before losing to eventual champion Djokovic in the semi-finals last year – just the third time he was beaten at the claycourt major since his debut in 2005. (Reuters)