After a record-making start to his 2022 season, Rafael Nadal has announced that he will be off the tour for between four and six weeks after medics confirmed he has a stress fracture in the rib.
In the closing stages of a marathon semi-final match against teenage prodigy Carlos Alcaraz on Saturday, Nadal needed treatment to his left shoulder area and chest, but went on to win the three-and-three-quarter hour match that was played in punishing windy conditions.
It became clear early in the final against Taylor Fritz that Nadal was not 100 percent, and although it was Fritz who was expected to be troubled by an ankle injury, also picked up in his semi-final, it was the former champion whose serve and forehand were below par.
Fritz struggled to take advantage as often as he might have expected, and Nadal fought back from 1-5 down in the first set, before needing treatment off court between sets.
He then survived match point in the ninth game of the second set. But having taken the young American to a tie-break, Fritz eventually edged game, set, and match to end what had become the best opening winning stretch of Nadal’s career—20 consecutive match-wins.
The 35-year-old Spanish star admitted afterwards that he had been contending with pain for most of the match:
“I had pain, honestly. I had problems breathing. I don’t know if it’s something on the rib, I don’t know yet. When I’m breathing, when I’m moving, it’s like a needle all the time inside here. I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful. It’s the kind of pain that limits me a lot.”
Today he confirmed the diagnosis:
“Hello everyone, I wanted to announce that I have returned to Spain and I immediately went to visit my medical team to do the tests after the Indian Wells final.
“As it turns out, I have a stress crack in one of my ribs and will be out for four to six weeks. This is not good news and I did not expect this.
“I am down and sad because after the start of the season I have had such a good time. I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results.”
He was referring to the imminent clay swing, his most successful and beloved phase of the year. He will be forced to miss the Barcelona 500, where he is a 12-time champion, and the Monte-Carlo Masters, where he has won 11 titles and not fallen short of the quarters since first winning there 17 years ago.
Whether he will be fit to resume action in May at the Madrid and Rome Masters—that latter also garnering 10 titles—it is too soon to say.
Nadal’s run in Indian Wells took him back to No3 in the ranks this week, in what was a true reflection of a stunning 10 weeks from the Spaniard.
He opened with the Melbourne 250 title, then won a record 21st Major at the Australian Open, then picked up the Acapulco title. During his residency in Indian Wells, he notched up his 400th Masters match-win, and was one win away from drawing level with Novak Djokovic on 37 Masters titles.
He had determined before Indian Wells to skip the Miami Masters this week to rest and recover for the clay swing, but now he has an enforced break considerably longer than anticipated. His target will be preparation in Rome ahead of his campaign for yet another record at the French Open in late May.