In A World Of Pain: Rafael Nadal’s Career-Long Battle With Injuries

Rafael Nadal on Sunday withdrew from the Australian Open with a muscle tear after he played his first tournament in almost a year. The 22-time Grand Slam title winner has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, including missing 11 majors through a series of knee, feet, ankle, abdomen and wrist problems. Here’s a look at Nadal’s history of pain:

2003: Elbow

Two years after his professional debut, Nadal experienced his first physical problems which forced him to withdraw from the French Open after picking up an elbow injury in training.

2004: Left foot

Just 18, Nadal misses the French Open and Wimbledon due to a broken bone in his foot.

2009: Knee

In June, Nadal, having already experienced a first ever loss at the French Open, suffers tendinitis in his knees, depriving him of the opportunity to defend the Wimbledon title he had won 12 months earlier in an epic final against Roger Federer.

In September, Nadal is knocked out of the US Open semi-finals admitting to playing with an abdominal tear.

2012: Knee

Tendonitis in his left knee forces Nadal out of the Olympics where he was the defending champion. The Spanish star also sits out the US Open due to issues with his left knee.

2014: Back

Despite a back problem, Nadal battles to the Australian Open final in January where he loses to Stan Wawrinka.

In July, a right wrist injury forces him to miss the US Open.

2016: Wrist

A left wrist injury forces Nadal to withdraw from the French Open, where he is already a nine-time champion, before the third round.

2021: Foot

In August, Nadal ends his season early due to yet more left foot problems and explains he has been suffering from Mueller-Weiss syndrome for years. This condition affects one of the bones in the foot, causing chronic pain. He has surgery in September.

2022: Rib/Foot/Abdomen

Having defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, Nadal loses in the final to Taylor Fritz. He then misses several tournaments including the Monte Carlo Masters due to a cracked rib.

In May and June, Nadal endures searing pain in his left foot. After wrapping up a 14th French Open title – and 22nd Grand Slam crown – he reveals that he has to take “anesthetic injections before each match” to put his foot to sleep which allows him to play.

“It’s obvious that I cannot and do not want to continue playing in these circumstances,” said Nadal.

Weeks later, Nadal has to forfeit an eagerly-anticipated Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios after suffering an abdomen tear in a gruelling last-eight clash with Fritz.

2023: Hip

In January, Nadal loses in the Australian Open second round and explains that he is suffering from a hip injury. He predicted an absence from the tour of 6-8 weeks, but eventually calls time on his season before undergoing surgery.

2024: Thigh

After almost a year on the sidelines, Nadal returns to action in Brisbane, reaching the last-eight where he loses to Jordan Thompson. He feels a pain in his left thigh and an MRI scan reveals “a micro muscle tear”. He withdraws from the Australian Open and returns to Spain to consult his medical team.

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