injured again, will Nadal be able to afford one last Roland-Garros?

Two short matches and everything suggested that nothing had changed: the groans and the rage to win, the tics and the bottles adjusted to the millimeter, the forehand slap and the little paw flick to adjust backhand and back smashes. to the net. Deep down, some wondered if they had not dreamed and if Rafael Nadal had really left the circuit for twelve months.

In Brisbane, in this cursed Queensland where he was making his comeback since his left psoas injury contracted in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, the Spaniard (de) showed that he had not forgotten how to play tennis. Two victories, certainly against the Austrian Dominic Thiem, who is only a shadow of himself, and the modest Australian Jason Kubler (102e world), but two promising victories awakening both nostalgia and hope.

And then the demons resurfaced as soon as the third match, on January 5, against the local team, Jordan Thompson. Despite three match points and 3 hours 25 minutes of fierce combat, the former world number 1 – fell to 672e place – lowered his weapons, looking worriedly on his left thigh and towards his clan. Sunday January 7, one week before the kick-off in Melbourne, Nadal made official what the entire circuit feared: his withdrawal from the first of the four rounds of the Grand Slam (from January 14 to 28).

Read also: Tennis: injured again, Rafael Nadal withdraws from the Australian Open

“I don’t deserve to end up like this”

The bad news is that he is suffering from a new ” muscle tear “. There ” Good “, according to him, it did not occur in the same area as the previous one. “For the moment, I am not ready to compete at the highest level, in the best of five sets [le format des matchs en Grand Chelem] », agrees the 37-year-old player in his press release, without falling into pessimism.

” As I’ve already said, insists the left-hander, my goal is to be at my best level in three months. » Any follower of the circuit will have understood this: for the start of the European tour on clay, with Roland-Garros in its sights (from May 26 to June 9), symbol, with fourteen victories, of its almost absolute monarchy on the surface.

Will he succeed? The challenge is immense for anyone who has already pushed all the limits of their body. Nadal returned to be able to choose his exit, to win his last fight against his main work tool, who has become his main enemy. “I don’t deserve to end up like this”he said on May 18, 2023 during the press conference where he announced that he was giving up the death in his soul at the meeting at Porte d’Auteuil.

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