Rafael Nadal won his 22nd Grand Slam event on Sunday when he defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets (6-3, 6-3, 6-0) to win the French Open for the 14th time. And he did it without much feeling in his foot.
Nadal revealed after the match that he was dealing with multiple injuries throughout the French Open. In particular, his chronically injured left foot was bothering him, and he needed to get a numbing injection in order to play the final.
“The preparation was not ideal,” Nadal said, per ESPN. “I had a stress fracture of the rib, then I have the foot which stays there all the time. I had my doctor here with me — I don’t know how to say in English what we did, we played with no feeling on the foot, we played with an injection in the nerve so the foot was asleep — that’s why I was able to play.”
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Foot pain is nothing new for Nadal. The 36-year-old has a rare, degenerative condition called Mueller-Weiss syndrome which affects bones in the feet. The condition particularly wears on the back of the foot, and it’s why Nadal has needed constant maintenance on his foot during the latter stage of his career.
At Roland Garros, that meant receiving frequent injections to manage the pain in his foot. Those injections worked on a temporary basis, as evidenced by Nadal’s performance at the French Open, including his streak of 11 games won in the final against Ruud.
However, the No. 5-ranked player is looking for a longer-term solution to the problem. As such, he will undergo minor surgery on his injured foot in wake of the French Open in the hopes of being ready to play in Wimbledon.
“I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” Nadal said. “That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I think nobody want to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”
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Nadal wants to play at Wimbledon and attempt to win his third consecutive major, but if the surgery doesn’t negate his pain, he won’t play. He doesn’t want to get constant injections to keep him on the court as he did at the French Open.
Wimbledon is a priority, always [has] been a priority. If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories? Yes. To play with anaesthetic injections? No. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. Can happen once, but no, is not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.
So let’s see. I am always a positive guy, and I always expect things going the right way. So let’s be confident, and let’s be positive. Then let’s see what’s going on.
As such, the result of Nadal’s surgery will be critical in determining his future in tennis. If the minor surgery proves ineffective in helping him manage his pain, he may have to undergo major surgery. At that point, there would be no guarantee that he would return to form.
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But Nadal isn’t focusing on his uncertainty. He just wants to keep playing until he can’t anymore.
“I don’t know what can happen in the future,” Nadal told the crowd after his win, “but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”