Nadal’s fitness boost provides lift in quest to win calendar year grand slam

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: John Walton/PA</span>
Photograph: John Walton/PA

Rafael Nadal has expressed his satisfaction about the development of his chronically injured foot since undergoing radiofrequency ablation treatment this month as he chases a calendar year grand slam for the first time.

After winning his 14th French Open title with his foot under anaesthesia because of the degenerative syndrome he has suffered from since his youth, Nadal underwent treatment a day later. The 36-year-old slowly made his way back to action afterwards, first training on the grass courts of the Mallorca Championships, an hour drive from his home in Manacor, then taking part in the Hurlingham exhibition this past week.

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In his exhibition matches against Stan Wawrinka and Félix Auger-Aliassime, he did not appear to have any physical problems and was much more preoccupied with perfecting his game. On Saturday, Nadal explained that he is particularly satisfied by the operation’s impact on his day-to-day life so far, even if he is still cautious about how it may develop.

“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.

“And second thing, practising. I have been in overall better, honestly, no? Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. Of course, [some] days better; days a little bit worse. The feeling and overall feelings are positive.”

They are particularly positive developments as Nadal reckons with an opportunity that will likely never come again. In his 20th season on tour, this year marks the first time that Nadal has won the first two grand slam tournaments of the season.

Having missed last year’s Wimbledon because of his foot injury, Nadal has not competed here since 2019. The All England Club had not been a happy place for him for a large part of the 2010s as he suffered numerous early losses, but in 2018 and 2019 he found his footing again and reached two consecutive semi-finals, though he was defeated by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, respectively.

Meanwhile, the men’s defending champion, Djokovic, has expressed his opposition to Wimbledon’s ban of Russian and Belarusian tennis players in light of the war in Ukraine. “I can’t say I fully agree to ban Russian tennis players, Belarusian tennis players, from competing indefinitely,” he said. “I just don’t see how they have contributed to anything that is really happening. I mean, I don’t feel it’s fair. I think they would accept the compromise that they’ve actually had as a situation or circumstances with Olympic Games anyway to play under neutral flag. I feel like they deserve to win. They deserve to compete.”

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Having spent the past weeks managing his own injury scare, an abdominal problem suffered in the Stuttgart Open final, Andy Murray said things have been going well as he returns to Wimbledon. The two-time champion faces James Duckworth on Monday as the third match on Centre Court. “It’s gone well,” the Scot said. “I’ve been able to gradually progress my training this week and got to play a few sets, a lot of points.”

After the season of his life in 2020, the British No 1, Cameron Norrie, returns to his home slam as a top 10 seed and a top player. After inching into the seedings last year and facing the misfortune of drawing Roger Federer in the third round, this time as the ninth seed and the highest ranked in his section, he will be searching for his first grand slam fourth round.

“It’s a big goal for me,” said Norrie. “I’d like to tick that box obviously. Played a third round a few times now.

“Obviously helps with the seeding and having a slightly better draw. But, no, I mean, it’d be nice to do that, tick that box.”

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