Rafael Nadal on Sunday night revealed the “extreme” lengths he is going to order to combat the foot injury that threatens his career.
He had two pre-match nerve-numbing injections on his foot and took a host of anti-inflammatories before matches at Roland Garros. It is an arduous process he is not willing to go through again though, and said the next few weeks were crucial in finding a long-term solution for his chronic foot pain. Otherwise, retirement is the most likely outcome.
Nadal is due to undergo radiofrequency nerve ablation this week, which targets and destroys the nerve fibres carrying pain signals to the brain.
If that fails, a “major surgery” is the only treatment left. But speaking after his win over Casper Ruud – which saw him claim his 14th French Open title and 22nd grand slam – Nadal was unsure if he is willing to take that drastic action.
“That’s what we are going to try,” he said of the radiofrequency treatment. “If that works, I’m going to keep going. If that doesn’t work, then it’s going to be another story.
“Then I’m going to ask myself about if I am ready to do a major thing without being sure that the things are going the proper way – for example a major surgery that doesn’t guarantee me to be able to be competitive again and it’s going to take a long time to be back. ”
Prior to Paris, Nadal’s clay-court season was marred by a flare-up in his foot. It is pain caused by a chronic condition, Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, which has dogged him for most of his career and left him using crutches most of last season.
Nadal dodged questions about the injury during the tournament, but the 36-year-old was candid about his struggles afterwards.
Playing in Paris with no feeling in his foot was an exceptional circumstance he said, and one he was not willing to repeat. It puts his availability for Wimbledon, which begins three weeks on Monday, in huge doubt.
“I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” he said. “Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I love Wimbledon. If you ask me if I will be in Wimbledon, I can’t give you a clear answer.
“If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes; to play with anaesthetic injections, no. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. Can happen once, but is not a philosophy of life I want to follow. ”
The press conference was a sombre final word, especially considering Nadal is having the best first half to a season of his career.
It is the first time he has secured the Australian and French Opens in the same year. In other circumstances, all the post-match talk would have been about a calendar grand slam. But Nadal was clear that happiness and tennis may not be able to co-exist any more.
“My tennis career has been a priority during all my life but never a priority over my happiness,” he said. “If I am still able to be happy playing tennis with the things that I have, I’m going to keep going. If not, I’m going to do other stuff. ”