Ahead of French Open, an Injury Interrupts Nadal’s Surge

SAN DIEGO — Rafael Nadal, the 21-time Grand Slam match singles champion, introduced Tuesday that he had a stress fracture in his rib cage and wouldn’t play for “4 to 6 weeks.”

Such accidents could be sluggish to heal and tough to deal with. Nadal, 35 and again as much as No. 3 within the ATP Tour rankings after an impressive begin to the season, seems sure to overlook a big chunk of the clay-court season, together with subsequent month’s Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.

Nadal is probably the most profitable clay-court participant in historical past, and 13 of his file 21 main titles have come on the French Open, which begins Might 22.

“This isn’t excellent news, and I didn’t count on this,” Nadal mentioned in Spanish on Tuesday in a social media submit. “I’m downbeat and unhappy as a result of after such an important begin to the season, I used to be coming to a vital a part of the 12 months with superb emotions and outcomes. However hey, I’ve all the time had this spirit to struggle and to beat and what I’ll do is have persistence and work onerous throughout my restoration.”

Nadal mentioned he injured the rib throughout his grueling three-set victory on Saturday within the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open over Carlos Alcaraz, his 18-year-old Spanish compatriot. Nadal struggled to breathe with out ache through the latter levels of that match, performed in blustery circumstances in Indian Wells, Calif. He was handled on the court docket however, nonetheless unclear on the severity of his damage, he selected to play in Sunday’s closing in opposition to Taylor Fritz of the US.

Fritz, 24, defeated Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (5) to win probably the most vital title of his profession. Nadal was clearly diminished: serving at slower speeds than traditional. He took a medical timeout off court docket after the primary set and was handled on the court docket late within the second, wincing as he lay on his abdomen throughout a changeover and a tour coach labored on him. However Nadal nonetheless got here inside two factors of forcing a decisive third set.

He underwent medical assessments upon returning to Spain on Monday and is now again in an all-too-familiar mode: rehabilitating an damage. Nadal has handled accidents all through his exceptional profession and missed a lot of the second half of the 2021 season due to a continual foot situation after dropping to Novak Djokovic within the semifinals of the French Open. He caught the coronavirus in December however recovered shortly and gained his first 20 singles matches of the season, together with the Australian Open title.

However this can be a new sort of damage for Nadal, one that might recur and, based on the retired orthopedic surgeon Invoice Mallon, might require longer than 4 to 6 weeks to heal. “You possibly can’t put your rib in a forged,” Mallon mentioned.

Remedy choices are restricted, although some sufferers use bone stimulator gadgets, which use electrical or ultrasonic impulses to attempt to velocity therapeutic, mentioned Nicholas DiNubile, an American orthopedic surgeon. Nadal has by no means performed within the French Open with out competing in a preliminary occasion on clay. But it surely may very well be a race in opposition to the clock to compete in early Might within the Madrid Open or Italian Open.

Earlier than saying the damage, Nadal had withdrawn from this week’s Miami Open, a Masters 1000 occasion on a hardcourt. Djokovic, again at No. 1, may also miss it due to the US’ journey ban on unvaccinated foreigners. However Fritz, the rising American star who performed Sunday’s closing regardless of a proper ankle damage, is anticipated to play.

“With remedy and a late begin, he ought to be good to go,” Paul Annacone, certainly one of his coaches, mentioned Tuesday.

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