Rafael Nadal has opened up on the foot injury that left him sidelined for the second half of the 2021 season. The world No 4 came back from a six-month injury layoff to win a record 21st Grand Slam title and is yet to lose a match this year, starting 2022 with a career-best 15 wins and zero losses.
Nadal comes into Indian Wells undefeated so far this year, winning all three tournaments he has entered.
The Spaniard will open his campaign for a fourth title at the BNP Paribas Open against dangerous rising star Sebastian Korda, the world No 38 and son of former world No 2 Petr Korda.
He is full of confidence after having his best-ever start to the season, coming in with a 15-0 winning record and smashing his previous career-best of 11-0 in 2014.
Across the 15 matches, the world No 4 has picked up titles at the Melbourne ATP 250, the recent Acapulco ATP 500 and most significantly, the Australian Open where he became the first man in history to win a record 21st Grand Slam title.
All of it comes off the back of 18 months of injury woes for the 35-year-old, who ended his 2021 season in August after the Washington Open, having already missed Wimbledon and the Olympics.
But ahead of his Indian Wells campaign, Nadal has admitted he rushed his comeback at the ATP 500 event last summer and explained how his issues with the left foot started long before he ended his season.
“I went through difficult times. People stop at the last six months since that’s the period during which I haven’t played, after Roland-Garros,” he told L’Equipe.
“If you remember correctly, after the Australian Open, I didn’t have didn’t play until the clay season because I had my issues. Then, after Roland Garros, I could hardly walk for two weeks. I couldn’t go down the stairs normally.
“I had to withdraw from Wimbledon. And I wasn’t ready to play in Washington, but I wanted to try.
“The two months of training before had been terrible. I could not complete a session normally. The period during which I suffered is much longer than the duration of my absence.”
Despite enjoying a hugely successful injury return and start to the season, the 91-time title winner revealed he still has bad days with the foot injury and said it would never be healed even though he was finally playing without pain.
“When will my foot be 100% restored? Never,” he said after arriving in Indian Wells.
“It is a wound that cannot be healed. It’s the truth. Some days it’s good, others not. You have to manage it as best you can and find a way to play as much as possible without limits. The goal is to play without fear of placing your foot where it is needed to hit the ball well.
“It was not possible for a long time. This year I was able to do that most of the time. That’s why I’m enjoying tennis again. But if you tell me that my foot is no longer a source of concern for me, it is not true.”
And Nadal did not rule out any future time on the sidelines as a result of the injury, admitting it would always be a concern.
He added: “I worry about my foot every day. We’ll see how it will evolve. For now, I couldn’t be happier. But there will be a time when I need to do a little more care, maybe stop for a little while and find the right balance between playing and resting. Getting good tournament planning right and sticking to it. It’s my aim”