It hurts a lot to see a champion as great as Rafa Nadal suffer so much on a tennis court. Especially if it is not because of the opposition of a rival, but because of that damn problem in the left foot (Müller-Weiss syndrome) that has haunted him since the beginning of his career. An intractable chronic injury for an athlete, because the operation that would fix it would prevent him from playing. With that, the Spaniard has won 91 titles, 21 of them Grand Slam, 10 in Rome, one of the most successful tournaments for him. There, at the Centrale of the Foro Italicowith an obvious limp, Nadal had to give the match to Denis Shapovalov (1-6, 7-5 and 6-2 in 2h37) after having made a magnificent first set and losing the second by very little, when the problems began.
Rarely has the Spanish been seen so expressive due to an ailment during a match. It was not possible for him this time to put on his legendary poker face to hide his status from the rival. Halfway through the third round, Rafa had to lean on a broken towel rack. But he continued playing because of that bullfighter’s shame that he has, the one that tells him not to give up. He has only done it nine times in 20 years and six other times he didn’t show up to play. He made just 15 matches out of the 2,313 he has played since he debuted on the ATP Tour. “I’m not injured. I’m a player who lives with an injury. My day to day is difficult, really. It’s hard for me to accept it sometimes. The pain today was crazy”, said the man from Manaco at the press conference he offered immediately after losing against Shapovalov, the last left-hander who had beaten him, in Canada. Later, he prevailed over the other 23 who opposed him. Until now.
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The defeat also stings, because Nadal was one win away from reaching his 100th quarterfinal in a Masters 1,000 and, at the same time, his 70th win in the Italian tournament. Last year he raised two match points against the 23-year-old Canadian and 16th in the world, who will face Casper Ruud, an outstanding student at the Rafa Nadal Academy, on Friday (3:00 p.m.). To make matters worse, as he was defending the title won in 2021, he lost 910 points and fourth place in the standings, to which Stefanos Tsitsipas climbed. But, above all, the state in which he will arrive at Roland Garros, ‘his’ Grand Slam, which starts in ten days, is worrying.On June 3, he will be 36 years old there, if he does not resign, something unlikely. “I don’t know whether to rest, I don’t know whether to train. The goal remains the same. I will keep dreaming about it. The first thing I have to do is not have pain to train. In Paris I will have my doctor there with me. That sometimes helps because you can do things,” she advanced.
light and dark
The positive is that his best tennis appeared. He confused Shapovalov with the bounce and the weight of the ball, with devilish spin and somewhat shot-up agility. He looked in rhythm and with sensations, and perhaps he was primed. What worries her is that she can’t maintain that vitality for three sets. We will have to see it. You need your people. To all who support him. And it has come back successfully so many times…
Results of the Masters 1,000 in Rome