Rafael Nadal Was the Immovable Object


Here are some body parts that Rafael Nadal has torn: his hamstrings, and his quadriceps. His left patellar tendon, abdomen, and left costal arch. His abdomen again. He’s dealt with tendinitis, arthritis, and repeated issues with both wrists. He has hip problems. Last year, at Indian Wells, he broke a rib midway through his semifinal match. He won that match, and then went out and played the final. “I could barely breathe but I decided to play the final because they told me it was probably a muscle spasm,” he said afterward. Normal stuff.

After getting a second opinion and a correct diagnosis, Nadal took six weeks off. He returned midway through his beloved clay season, and lost uncharacteristically early at tournaments in Madrid and Rome. Then he went to Paris, creaky and torn and held together by athletic tape, and beat four top-10 players to win the French Open for the 14th time. 

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Nadal paid dearly, it turned out, to win that 14th French Open. With the hopes of winning the Grand Slam still, somehow, intact after the first two majors of the 2022 season, he dragged himself to Wimbledon, white-knuckled his way to the semifinals and then did something nearly as un-Nadal-like as smashing a racket or declining to tinker with his water bottles: he withdrew. An abdominal tear. Again!

Since then, Nadal’s ranking has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since 2005. He didn’t have his best stuff at last year’s U.S. Open—he reached the fourth round and lost to an inspired Frances Tiafoe—but things have only gotten worse as he’s taken time to rest. Now, it’s May and he’s won one match this year. He’s only played four. What’s wrong this time? Does it even matter? Or have we moved beyond targeted rehab and particular diagnoses? Perhaps it’s now just understood that once he steps on the court, something is going to give way.

Since he broke through on tour in the mid-aughts, it’s been impossible to watch Nadal and not think two things: Holy shit, how did he get to that ball? and oh boy, that’s going to catch up to him. He played tennis with stunning, infuriating physicality. His game was all loops and slides. No sharp angles, and yet somehow still so fast. But each time he blasted a forehand, whipping the racket over his head as he does, you could practically feel something tearing in his shoulder. He got to every ball, especially on the clay, where he had that extra split second to slide to that just-out-of-reach shot, but that was going to come at a cost, right? Now, finally, the bill is coming due.

Copyright : https://www.gq.com/story/rafael-nadal-french-open-career

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