Rafael Nadal: Wimbledon participation hangs in the balance after latest French Open triumph

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Dominant: Rafael Nadal clinched a record-extending 14th French Open title on Sunday  (Getty Images)
Dominant: Rafael Nadal clinched a record-extending 14th French Open title on Sunday (Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal’s participation at Wimbledon hangs in the balance with just three weeks before the third Grand Slam of the season in which to prove his fitness.

After extending his own record of French Open titles to 14 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 demolition of Casper Ruud on Sunday, the Spaniard said he would do everything in his power to be fit for the grass-court season.

But aged 36 and with his body once more showing its frailties, he currently has no idea how possible that might prove to be.

10 days prior to Roland Garros, he had hobbled his way out of the Italian Open, raising serious question marks about his involvement in a tournament which he has dominated.

He only managed to make his way through the seven rounds in Paris courtesy of injections in his injured left foot which meant he had “no feeling” in it during the tournament.

As feeling returns in the coming days, he and his team will learn quite how badly his degenerative foot condition has become.

To limit the damage, he will have heat treatment to the foot which destroys damaged tissue using radio waves and helps diminish the pain that nerves send to the brain.

Of his participation at SW19 later this month, Nadal said: “I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon. That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament I want to miss. I think nobody wants to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”

There is motivation courtesy of the prospect of extending his advantage over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in terms of Grand Slam titles to 23 to the pair’s respective 20 but, more pertinently, the opportunity for a clean sweep of the Slams in a single season.

Nadal long ago defied the critics who suggested he did not have the game to win Wimbledon by clinching the title in 2008 and again two years later. His current form – if his body holds up – suggests he ought to be a challenger once again in 2022.

Last year, he was absent from the draw with the same injury and it is still conceivable that his foot issues will keep him out again. One thing is for certain, the Spaniard has no intention of playing another Slam with a numb foot.

Nadal is unwilling to continue with pain-killing injections in his troublesome left foot (AFP via Getty Images)
Nadal is unwilling to continue with pain-killing injections in his troublesome left foot (AFP via Getty Images)

Looking ahead to Wimbledon, he said, “If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes. To play with anaesthetic injections, no. I don’t want to put myself in that position again.”

Of his heat treatment, he added: “If that works, I am going to keep going. If that doesn’t work, then it is going to be another story. Then I will have to ask myself if I am ready to do a major surgery that doesn’t guarantee me to be able to be competitive again and could take a long time to be back.”

It leaves the possibility that Nadal might not play at the highest level again, although the manner in which he has returned to form and fitness in 2022 would suggest there are more chapters to come in a remarkable career.

He was not afraid to admit that he had assumed that career potentially at an end when the condition last flared up in the wake of last year’s French Open, forcing him out of Wimbledon and, bar the briefest of returns in August for the American hard-court swing, the rest of the season. Even this year’s French Open had looked unlikely until the very last minute.

“As everyone knows in the world of tennis,” he said, “my preparation was not ideal. But Roland Garros is Roland Garros. Everybody knows how much this tournament means to me, so I wanted to keep trying to give myself a chance here. That [the injections] was the only way to give myself a chance here so I did it.”

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