Tennis

Rafael Nadal: Can The French Open Favorite win the Title with foot injury issues?

Rafael Nadal to Compete in his favourite tournament, The French Open. Photo MARCA
  • Rafael Nadal has won the most French Open titles (13), and he looks forward to claiming the 14th starting May 22
  • The 21 -time Grand Slam champion said that the foot injury he sustained in the French Open in 2005 is persistent
  • The Spaniard appeared to limp during a three-set loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open.
  • He surpassed fans’ expectations after winning the Australian Open despite a five-month absence on the field

Due to an injury, Rafael Nadal is entering the 2022 French Open with little clay preparation. Will he be able to go for a record-tying 14th title in Paris? 

Nadal suffered a rib injury earlier this year and a foot injury during his loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open. He did not win a warm-up clay event until 2020 when he won the French Open.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is the king of clay court. Photo/Tennis Tonic

Nadal has won most of the French Open titles

Rafael Nadal has won the French Open in a variety of different ways. As a teenager, he won it without dropping a set, he won it as the overall winner, and he won it against Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Robin Soderling.

Only once has he won it without first winning another clay event that season, in 2020, when the French Open was moved to October.

In Paris, history is not on Nadal’s side. Neither is time.

Nadal suffered a rib injury at Indian Wells

Since suffering a rib injury in late March at Indian Wells, Nadal has appeared to be in a race against time to be ready for the French Open.

 His chances of extending his record to 22 Grand Slam titles next month were dashed when he limped and groaned during a three-set loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open.

According to Nadal, it wasn’t a new injury but the return of a persistent foot issue known as Müller-Weiss disease, which he appears to have had since his first French Open victory in 2005.

“I had my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said afterwards. “I am a player living with an injury; it is nothing new. It’s something that is there.

Paris is a long way from Melbourne, and the gloom surrounding Nadal right now is a far cry from the joy he felt when he won the Australian Open just a few months ago.

Rafael Nadal suffrered a hip injury at the Indian Wells. Photo: ATP Tour

As he added another memorable Grand Slam run to his already-expanding collection, Nadal spoke about overcoming doubts and “enjoying every day.

Nadal looks foward to claiming back his favorite title from  Djokovic

The foot injury seemed to be behind him, and he was already looking forward to taking back his title from Novak Djokovic in Paris.

But, while Novak Djokovic declared himself in best shape for the French Open after the Rome victory, Nadal is as short on clay match fitness as he has ever been.

He has only played on the surface five times this season, winning three and losing two.

Perhaps Nadal’s experience will help him. He had only played three matches in Rome before the French Open in 2020 and hadn’t played since February due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 The change from early summer to autumn was not expected to help him, and Nadal predicted “the most difficult conditions” he had ever faced at the tournament.

However, Nadal not only won again, but he did so without dropping a set (for the fourth time in his career) and completely outclassed Djokovic in the final.

Indeed, Nadal has much more than enough credit not to be written off, particularly at the French Open. He has almost become accustomed to overcoming earlier murmurs about his form to win.

He also defied the odds in Australia by winning on his comeback after a five-month absence, and it would come as no surprise if he were standing on Court Philippe Chatrier with La Coupe des Mousquetaires in a few weeks.

However, the pattern has shifted.

Rafael Nadal has won most of the French Open Titles. Photo: CBC Sports

Carlos Alcaraz looked primed for his first Grand Slam title in Madrid, defeating Nadal, Djokovic, and Alexander Zverev on his way to victory.

In Rome, Djokovic rose to prominence and established himself as the favourite.

Stefanos Tsitsipas deserves to be running after arguably the most regular clay season on the ATP Tour.

A win in Monte Carlo, quarter-finals in Barcelona, semi-finals in Madrid, and a final in Rome. Zverev has also shown promising signs in Rome and Madrid.

Given that he hinted in Rome that retirement might be close due to his chronic foot problem, Nadal will be obsessed with winning the French Open – and will likely go to any length.

Even if he isn’t at his peak, it’s difficult to see him losing in the first week, given his experience and calibre, but the second week might be a scenario of entering the uncertain with his form and fitness.

There’s also the draw to consider. Because he is seeded fifth, Nadal’s worst-case scenario is that he is drawn in the same half of the draw as Alcaraz, Djokovic and Zverev or Tsitsipas, 

 

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