injuries, Müller-Weiss syndrome, 36 years old … How Rafael Nadal postpones the inevitable

For almost a year now, the tennis world has known that Rafael Nadal has a serious foot problem. This Friday, June 3, celebrates its 36th anniversary. However, the Spaniard has just spent more than 8:30 on the court in his last two matches, quickly overthrowing a 21-year-old talent, Félix Auger-Aliassime, then one of the physical (and tennis) benchmarks. of the circuit. , Novak Djokovic. In the Roland-Garros semifinals, against Alexander Zverev, he was given the right to dream of a new coronation. Against wind and tide.

It seems so far away. On May 13, Rafael Nadal lost the round of 16 in Rome to Denis Shapovalov (1-6, 7-5, 6-2), after suffering martyrdom. “In the middle of the second set, it became unbearable”, confided the Mallorcan about his chronic foot pain. More than three weeks later, he is still competing in Paris for his 37th Grand Slam semifinal.

Survivor of a round of 16 marathon against Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Spaniard was monstrous against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Forty-eight hours apart, he showed nothing, no sign of pain or discomfort.

“It’s hard to find the right superlatives about him.excites Paul Quétin, physical trainer of the French Tennis Federation. He always manages to come back. His resilience is impressive. ” Even back on the wall, as against the Canadian, his relentlessness allows him to tear down mountains.

“He has a generosity in the effort, he is extraordinary, extraordinary. In his history, he showed that in long games, even injured, without necessarily saying it, he was there. From the point of view of mental strength, fitness and endurance., is a model of the last twenty years., explains Paul Quétin. “I still have a lot of experience in this field.“, Did not hide the interested party in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday.

“He’s pretty well-rounded, I’ve seen him with the same ‘physiophysicist’ for years. That shows he’s in a logic of recovery, rather than developing his physical qualities.”

Paul Quétin, FFT trainer

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The physical trainer, who led the French Davis Cup and Fed Cup team, details an anecdote that has value as a symbol of this meticulous management: “In Chatrier’s warm-up room, there’s a quadriceps machine, and it’s almost like Christmas. He is always there. “ Paul Quetin smiled. Despite this, his body is tired: chest pains ruined his final against Taylor Fritz in Indian Wells, and a crack in his rib in early March kept him off the track for a month.

The more the rounds go by, the more the world number 1 questions its future. “After this tournament, I don’t know what will happen”, hammered again on Tuesday evening. Spanish is severely disabled by Müller-Weiss syndrome. a degenerative disease that touches his left foot and makes his future uncertain.

“There are different stages of gravityexplains Gilbert Versier, an orthopedic surgeon at the Clinique Drouot in Paris. Obviously, this is not an advanced rank, but I could not play at this level. We also see that he does his best performances on clay. That’s understandable, because as you slide, there’s a lot less tension in your foot. “

Incurable, this pathology could end his career. Even after an operation last September, his left foot is still sore. That didn’t stop him from winning a record number 21 Grand Slam title in Melbourne in late January. “If we can’t find an improvement, it will be very difficult for me”, recalled Nadal after his match against Djokovic. Last year, “Rafa” ended his season in August, missing the U.S. Open. Will he be up to date with a long ten-month season? Doubts persist.

The Spaniard has never been so close to winning his 22nd major title. If he beats Alexander Zverev in the semifinals on Friday, he will play his 14th final at Porte d’Auteuil. He never lost a single one.

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