Things are getting better – Rafael Nadal feeling fitter before Wimbledon return

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Rafael Nadal gave a positive update about his fitness as he prepares to play at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019.

The Spaniard, who is bidding to win a third successive grand slam title and 23rd overall, was on crutches after the French Open because of his chronic foot problem but nerve treatment appears to have been successful.

“It’s obvious that, if I am here, it’s because things are going better,” said Nadal. “If not, I would not be here.

“So I’m quite happy about things, how they evolved. I can’t be super happy because I don’t know what can happen. But I only can speak about the feelings that I am having in the last two weeks.

“There are a couple of things that are so important for me. First of all, I can walk normally most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue.

“When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so I’m quite happy about that.

“And the second thing, practising. I have been overall better. Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all.”

Nadal admitted he cannot be sure how long the improvement will last, saying: “I can’t tell you if I’m going to be in that positive moment for one week, for two days, or for three months.

“The treatment that I did didn’t fix my injury, not improving my injury at all, but can take out a little bit the pain. That’s the main goal.”

Nadal feared he may have to retire late last year before a stunning return to win the Australian Open for the first time since 2009 and then coming back from a fractured rib and more foot problems to claim a 14th crown in Paris.

“In terms of daily suffering, it has been tough in terms of every day going on court without knowing if I’m going to be able to finish the practice the proper way or even finish the match the proper way,” he said.

“But in general terms it has been an amazing, positive six months in terms of tennis results. I enjoy it because it has been unexpected.

“But now is the moment to keep going, if I am able to be better with my body. The main thing for me is keep enjoying my daily work and my day-by-day playing tennis.”

Having come within a match of taking the lead in the grand slam race at the US Open last year, top seed Novak Djokovic now finds himself two titles adrift of Nadal, who he lost to in the quarter-finals of the French Open.

“Just hats down for what he has achieved, what he keeps on doing on the court,” said Djokovic.

“Great fighting spirit. Amazing champion. Just in general overall things that he’s trying to do in order to create even more of a successful legacy for him on the court is something that you just have to respect and admire, of course, even though I’m one of his biggest rivals and we had incredible matches during our career.

“I have nothing but respect for him and what he has achieved.”

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is gearing up for another tilt at the crown (John Walton/PA)

Djokovic is bidding for a fourth successive Wimbledon title and seventh overall, and he admitted the stakes have been raised by the continued ban on unvaccinated travellers to America, meaning he is set to miss the US Open.

“Of course, I’m aware of that,” he said. “That is an extra motivation to do well here.

“Hopefully I can have a very good tournament, as I have done in the last three editions. Then I’ll just have to wait and see. I would love to go to the States. But, as of today, that’s not possible.

“There is not much I can do any more. It’s really up to the US government to make a decision whether or not they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country.”

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