May 15, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

WIMBLEDON – As he limped away from Paris, his 14th Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall safely stashed in his luggage, who could predict Rafael Nadal would arrive at Wimbledon ready to win his third major of the season?

Despite the ongoing issues with a congenital, chronic foot problem and surgery that cost him the second half of 2021, the 36-year-old has somehow managed to come through on the big occasions this season.

And after undergoing radiofrequency ablation treatment after Paris, he arrived and has pronounced himself, for the most part, pain-free at the moment.

It doesn’t fix the issue, but is all about pain relief. And he doesn’t know for how long that will be the case. He’s just happy every single day if he wakes up and the pain is manageable, and doesn’t overthink it.

He is, quite literally, day to day.

Nadal also said that having the pain off-court, in his daily life – just walking around – is tougher to deal with than having it on court when he’s competing.

“First of all, I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue. When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so quite happy about that,” he said before the tournament.

“And second thing, practicing. I have been in overall better, honestly, no? Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have not one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. Of course, days better; days a little bit worst. The feeling and overall feelings are positive, no, because I am in a positive way in terms of pain, and that’s the main thing.”

Here’s what he said during that press conference.

Putting aside quality of life, Nadal is an excellent grass-court player. He’s “only” won Wimbledon twice, and it has been a long time.

But with the state of field, and his position as the No. 2 seed on the other side of the draw from Novak Djokovic, he’s in the best position he’s been in years to make a deep run.

Here’s now he looked Saturday, practicing with Jiri Vesely on one of the field courts.

One legitimate potential rival, who would have popped up in the round of 16, was Croatia’s Marin Cilic.

But Cilic is out – felled by COVID-19.

In his half, he has young guns like Canadians Félix Auger-Aliassime (who beat him at the Hurlingham Club last Friday in an exhibition – see below), Denis Shapovalov and even Taylor Fritz (who won Eastbourne on Saturday) in his half.

He also has 2021 finalist Matteo Berrettini in the other quarter of his half of the draw.

So the challenges are there. But until the quarterfinals – at least, you would expect him to get through.

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