Analysis: It’s hard to know what’s next for Nadal with a hip injury

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — This isn’t the first time Rafael Nadal’s body has been exposed betrayed him This much we know. What nobody – not even the 22-time Grand Slam champion Himself – can accurately determine what comes next.

First things first: an MRI scan Thursday showed Nadal injured his left quadriceps muscle during a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss to 65th seed Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open. Second round the day before. He is expected to need eight weeks to fully recover.

What the tests can’t reveal, and what the doctor can’t determine, is perhaps the most important question of all: How much of that kind of thing is he willing to put up with?

“I’ve been through this process many times in my career and I’m ready to continue to do that, I think,” Nadal said on Wednesday after his early exit from a major tournament seven years ago. doubt.”

It’s only natural for people to wonder what all this means for his future, especially with the retirements of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. It still ranks first in mind.

Nadal turns 37 after 4 and a half months. The wear and tear of his tough brand of playing every point like it might be his last is undeniable. So maybe it’s the psychological loss of a business that it takes to be able to compete at the level it used to be.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s hard to accept,” Nadal said wistfully. “Sometimes you get really tired about all this stuff, in terms of injuries.”

Over the past 12 months alone, he’s had damaged rib cartilage…and chronic pain in his left foot that was dulled by nerve narcotic injections during his French Open run. …and a muscle in the abdomen that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon.

“It’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day,” he said. “I can’t say I wasn’t mentally devastated in the moment, because I would be a liar.”

Nadal explained that his left hip was so bad on Wednesday, he couldn’t hit a backhand or run much at all. He considered quitting, but he played because he was the current champion.

Nadal was also seeded No. 1 at Melbourne Park, because top seed Carlos Alcaraz was out with a leg injury. (Aside: All the absences, for various reasons, have been amazing: Naomi Osaka, Ash Partey, Simona Halep, Venus Williams, Nick Kyrgios.)

McDonald, the 27-year-old American who won the NCAA singles and doubles titles at UCLA in 2016, made just four hits during a loss to Nadal the other time they played, nearly two and a half years ago.

McDonald said his emotions on Wednesday after claiming the biggest victory of his career were “more flat and old than I thought they were going to be”.

why? “Because of the circumstances,” McDonald said.

This was not Nadal at the height of his power.

He won two of his last nine tournaments, dating to a fourth-round loss to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open in September.

“I definitely thought it was an opportunity. It sounds like a slow move,” McDonald said. “Look, he’s trying his best. I mean, he’s a great hero. He’s trying to make the most of what he can do. He’s (almost) 37 years out and about. I’m sure his body is not what it used to be. I definitely think now is the best time to play it.”

With so much unknowns at the moment, Nadal offered some insight when asked what motivates him to do what is required to keep coming back from injury.

“It’s a very simple thing: I love what I do. I love playing tennis. I know it’s not forever. I love fighting for things I’ve been fighting for almost half my life or even more,” said Nadal. “When you do things you love to do, in End of the day, this is no sacrifice. You do the things you want to do.”


Howard Fendrich has been a tennis writer for the Associated Press since 2002. Write to him at or follow him on Twitter at


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