Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal faces a race against time to be fit for the French Open after being diagnosed with a stress rib fracture following Indian Wells
Image: 2022 TPN)
Rafael Nadal's bid to be fit in time for the French Open has been dealt a big blow after the Spaniard confirmed he wouldn't be playing in Barcelona this month.
After an injury plagued end to 2021, during which he also tested positive for Covid, Nadal made a stunning return to action in January. After winning the Melbourne Summer Set, he then reached the final of the Australian Open.
And despite trailing by two sets to top seed Daniil Medvedev, he fought back to take a famous win. The triumph represented an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title for the 35-year-old, moving him one clear of rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer .
His scintillating form continued as he captured the Mexican Open, again beating Medvedev along the way, before progressing through to the final at the Indian Wells Masters. That took his undefeated streak to 20 matches.
However, he was forced to leave the court with breathing difficulties during his straight-sets defeat to American Taylor Fritz. Following the clash, Nadal was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib, meaning he would face a minimum of six weeks out.
Given the timing, the injury has cast doubt on Nadal's status as the favourite to win at Roland Garros. The 'King of Clay' has won 13 of his Slam titles in Paris, and given the inactivity of Djokovic this year, had been widely tipped to triumph again.
However, having not recovered in time for this week's Monte-Carlo Masters, he's now confirmed he won't be playing the Barcelona Open. The event is due to get underway on April 17.
"Rafa has just been withdrawn from the entry list in Barcelona," his team said in a statement sent to Reuters . "We don't know yet when he will be at his first tournament on clay this year. Hopefully, soon."
Both Madrid and Rome host ATP Masters 1000 events next month and Nadal will surely now target playing matches in both events before turning his attention to Paris. The French Open gets underway on May 22.
Immediately after Indian Wells, Nadal admitted he didn't know when he would be back on court, telling reporters: "It's tough for me to breathe. When I try to breathe, it's painful and it's very uncomfortable.
"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 a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It's not only about pain, I don't feel very well because it affects my breathing.
"Honestly I am sad because of the way I was not able to compete. The thing that worries me now, it's about what's going on there, what I have to do now to recover and how long it's going to take."