Rafael Nadal losing time for comeback as retirement closing in with fresh injury setback

Rafael Nadal's latest injury setback increases doubts on his chances to bounce back as the King of Clay is yet to play on the surface.


Rafael Nadal losing time for comeback as retirement closing in with fresh injury setback

Rafael Nadal

These are bad times for Rafael Nadal and his fans. The more he delays his come back to the tennis courts, the greater the anxiety. And the latest in a series of missed date(s) — no offense ladies — is the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles postponing his return to the clay season forever? From the first week of January 2023, when Nadal groaned in pain and was out of the Australian Open, he left fans in tears.

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His Uncle Toni, who is like that old record disc player which likes to keep playing in a loop, harped on how his return could take very long after the MRI scan reports were made public. Nadal has taken a long break. On March 28, 2023, Nadal posted on his Twitter handle he was back in training. The photo of the left-hander preparing to hit a forehand stands out.

From then till now, Nadal has maintained stone silence on his return. Tournament organizers are anxious, for the presence of Nadal in a clay event is a huge bonus. That is his bread and butter game and his tennis has been built around it. However, this year has been frustrating. Period. Given his love affair with injuries, Nadal knows his body will never be that fit again. He has a history of injuries, then breaks and returns to tennis after fully recuperating.

What methods he uses to recover he knows best since modern medical science presents so many options. Whether you are a fan of Nadal or not, one does feel bad for his present state. It’s one of being isolated from active tennis. In the past, when Nadal took a break, there was the assurance he would be back, a 100 percent fit. That surety seems to be missing this time. Age? Perhaps, yes. Complications of injuries? Again, yes.

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Related: Rafael Nadal’s injury woes worsen as he is ‘90%’ ruled out from Barcelona Open

Rafael Nadal in race against time to be ready for the French Open

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

From head to toe may be a banal phrase, but Rafael Nadal has had dealt with a toe injury for over 12 or 13 years. He has needed nerve blocker injections at the pain site, which to a layman are anesthesia shots. That’s surely the best way of numbing the painful region. When he had an abdominal injury last year, that was also scary. However, 2023 seems to be more unkind to him, for the injury sustained in Melbourne has created doubts for millions.

Will the man who is King of Clay and lords over Roland Garros be ready for the French Open yet again? Will it suffice for Nadal to play just one warm-up event and head to Paris? If you go through his career record, this ongoing break is perhaps the longest. It is already over three months and one week. By the time he hits the Madrid tournament, the absence will be almost 14 to 15 weeks. It is one thing to train and prepare, and quite another to enter a tournament.

Clay, by nature, will not be so hard on his body. But the 2023 version of Nadal’s body is not like the 2022 version, where he won the Australian Open and the French Open. To be fit for the clay season and then tee off, a lot will depend on how he feels. Nadal’s game of absence has sown seeds of doubt in minds of many. People want to see him play for sure.

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His rivals are waiting, and people would love to see him and Novak Djokovic back in the big events. However, the big question is, will the growing absence from events make it harder for Nadal. Champions in any sport can churn out shots, irrespective of the sport. The problem is, if the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles can ask his own body, “Hey, are you going to back me solid?”

It is this question which is worrying. When Roger Federer was on the wane, in 2021, it made for painful viewing. He did play in the French Open and then lost in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. With Roger, one knew the knee injury/surgeries were the issue. Coming back was put on hold till the time he decided to say goodbye and then collect the big bucks at the Laver Cup in 2022.

In Nadal’s case, his body has been battered, by injuries and his own grinding brand of tennis. He cannot now attempt to play different tennis. After all, he had already made a service action change after the abdominal tear in 2022. If Rafael Nadal is going to be 100 percent sure he is physically ready, nobody can stop him. But to play grinding tennis week after week, that’s the big question.
Can Rafa do it?

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