On Sunday, Rafael Nadal created tennis history by becoming the first male player to win 22 Grand Slam titles. After defeating Casper Ruud in the championship match, he won his record-extending 14th French Open title to reach the landmark.
The Spanish star spent a lot of time discussing the persistent foot problem that has plagued him throughout his career while celebrating the milestone on the court and at the press conference. He mentioned experimenting with new approaches to get relief, and if it doesn’t work, his future in tennis may be in jeopardy.
Nadal admitted that he couldn’t and didn’t want to continue playing under the current conditions.
What Illness Has Plagued Nadal for So Long?
Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a rare degenerative ailment that affects the bones in the feet and causes persistent discomfort, is what Nadal has. He had to miss a significant amount of last year’s action due to an injury. The navicular bone, which is located between the talus and cuneiform bones on the rear of the foot, is impacted by this syndrome.
According to Professor Didier Mainard, head of orthopaedic surgery at Nancy Hospital in northeastern France and president of the French association of foot surgery, “this bone is subject to significant stresses and, for reasons that we don’t understand, loses its vascularization and necrosis takes place.”
The absence of vascularization causes the bone to become anaemic. The bone will dissolve, flatten, and possibly break in the most severe cases and “in persons who put a lot of strain on their foot,” the professor said. This can progress to osteoarthritis and shrink the plantar arch. One foot may be affected by Mueller-Weiss syndrome, but more frequently both. Nadal only needs to use his left foot.
Nadal Has Had This Injury for How Long?
For more than 15 years, Nadal has had a foot issue that requires constant care. In 2005, the same year he won his maiden Grand Slam championship, he was given the diagnosis. After being forced to withdraw from the US Open due to an ailment last year, Nadal has previously stated, “I’ve had this injury since 2005.
“The doctors were quite pessimistic at the time about my future career, but honestly, I’ve been able to have a career that I never dreamed of having, so I’m optimistic I will recover again, and if the foot is better, I’m confident that my tennis and my mentality will be there again soon.
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How Did He Compete at The French Open Despite Being Injured?
Nadal’s foot ailment flared up once more in May of this year, just before the French Open, when he was eliminated from the Last 16 of the Italian Open.
“I had my foot again, and it hurt a lot. I have a chronic injury, which is nothing new. There is something there. In all honesty, my day-to-day is challenging. Even in this situation, I’m making an effort, but it may be irritating when I find it difficult to practise properly,” Nadal had noted at the time.
The recurrence of the injury made Nadal’s participation in the French Open uncertain, but the renowned athlete was willing to go to the very end to endure the suffering. Nadal claimed following his Grand Slam victory that he travelled to Paris with his physician and played while undergoing multiple anaesthetic injections to relieve the discomfort. My doctor was present with me. We played with no feeling in the foot and an [pain-killing] injection on the nerve, but I’m not sure how to put it into English. I was able to play because the foot was dormant, Nadal explained to Eurosport after the match.
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What Will Nadal Do Next?
Nadal declared after his victory at the French Open that he wouldn’t want to miss Wimbledon, which starts on June 27. But he stressed that he wouldn’t play in the competition while receiving injections. In order to treat his foot, Nadal added that he will try a novel technique that involves “burning the nerve a little bit.” In the event that doesn’t work, surgery might be an alternative.
“So that is what we are going to do the following week. The nerve will be subjected to a radiofrequency injection in an effort to slightly burn the nerve and prolong the effect I currently have on it.
“We’re going to try it that way. I’ll keep continuing if that succeeds. If not, it will be a different story. Then I’ll assess my readiness for a large action, such as major surgery, which doesn’t assure that I will soon be able to compete again.