Rafael Nadal says that he will do everything in his power – including having his doctor on hand in Paris – to mount a competitive bid to win Roland Garros despite bowing out of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia Thursday below his best due to a chronic foot injury.
After a competitive first two sets with Denis Shapovalov, Nadal was clearly impeded in the third as Shapovalov rallied to a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory, reversing a loss to the Spaniard at the same stage in Rome last year, when the Canadian failed to convert two match points.
“I had my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “I am a player living with an injury; it is nothing new. It’s something that is there.
“Unfortunately my day-by-day is difficult, honestly… it’s difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes. Today at half the second set, it starts and then it wasn’t playable for me… I don’t want to take away anything from Denis… Today is for him. Well done for him.”
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A 10-time champion in Rome, Nadal was playing just his second tournament since sustaining a rib injury in March during Indian Wells. Last week he fell in three sets to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid quarter-finals and today the lefty was looking to reach his 100th quarter-final at ATP Masters 1000 level.
The 36-time Masters 1000 champion was devastated to finish another tournament suffering from injury, even though this one is a long-term known ailment.
“Since I came back, the foot has been tough,” he said. “It’s tough for me to be able to practise the proper way days in a row. So then you need to move well to compete at the highest level, something that I am not able to practise.
“The toughest thing for me today is honestly I start to feel myself play much better. I started the match playing much better. My practice was much better, the warmup, than the other day.”
With Roland Garros beginning 22 May, Nadal was asked whether his foot would allow him to mount a serious bid for a record-extending 14th title at the clay-court major.
“What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know. What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now,” he said.
“It’s the time to accept the situation and fight. That’s it… I don’t know if rest, I don’t know if maybe practice. But I still have a goal in one week and a couple of days. I’m going to keep dreaming about that goal.
“First thing that I need to do is to don’t have pain to practise, that’s it… It’s true that during the French Open, Roland Garros, I’m going to have my doctor there with me. That sometimes helps because you can do things.
“In the positive days and in the negative days, you need to stay and to value all the things that happened to me in a positive way. Then days like today, just accept and try to keep going even if sometimes it’s not easy for me.”
Nadal began the year by winning three consecutive titles, including a record-breaking 21st major at the Australian Open. He is hoping to move two majors clear of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic after Paris this year. But Djokovic will be attempting to join the Spaniard as a holder of 21 Slams.