Rafael Nadal has left tennis fans devastated after admitting that the foot injury that sidelined him for six months of last season is “incurable”. The world No 4 was seen limping into his press conference following his Madrid third-round win over David Goffin, causing a journalist to become confirmed, but the Spaniard confessed that it was “normal” for him to be walking that way.
Nadal was out of action for the back-end of 2021 with a left foot injury but made a successful return in January when he went on a 20 match-winning streak and picked up three titles, including the Australian Open. He still has just one defeat all year, having saved four match points to come through a thriller against Goffin 6-3 5-7 7-6(9) on Thursday, but concern grew afterwards when the third seed reportedly limped his way into his post-match press conference.
It prompted one journalist to ask the Spaniard about his physical state but Nadal admitted the pain was permanent as he responded: “If you saw me on a daily basis, you would not be worried because I limp on many days of my life. I always have pain in my foot, especially after playing a three-hour match or long training. So it’s normal that now I am walking a little badly.”
The 21-time Grand Slam champion held two match points in the second set of his match against Goffin before being dragged into a third, and said the untreatable injury suffered as a result. “But I have a chronic foot injury which has no treatment. That’s part of my life, and that’s the downside of not being able to finish the match earlier.”
Immediately after the match, Nadal had expressed his frustration at his inability to close out the match in two sets before going on to play for three hours and 10 minutes, but was also looking on the bright side of playing a lengthy match. “In a way it’s good that I have long matches, because after a long break my foot needs to get use to the physical toughness of competition again,” he said.
The world No 4 is playing his first tournament since Indian Wells after picking up a stress fracture in his rib that sidelined him for six weeks. He voiced concern ahead of Friday’s semi-final against Carlos Alaraz, as he added: “But I am also conscious for [Friday], because I can wake up with more problems and we have to accept and face it.”
It will be the third meeting between the pair, exactly 366 days after their first clash on what was Alcaraz’s 18th birthday when he was the 120th-ranked wildcard making his Masters 1000 debut. Having got his first Masters match win against Adrian Mannarino, he faced his idol and was dispatched 6-1 6-2.
They also met in the Indian Wells semi-final this year – the match in which Nadal injured his rib – with the elder Spaniard winning a tight 6-4 4-6 6-3 battle but Alcaraz is hoping to make it third time lucky when they face each other in the quarter-final. “I lost twice against him and I wanted to play against him the third time. I think it’s going to be different from last year [in Madrid] and the last match that we played [in Indian Wells],” the world No 9 said of their upcoming clash.