Nine-times champion Rafael Nadal sent shockwaves around Roland Garros on Friday when he unexpectedly pulled out of the French Open because of an injury to his left wrist.
A day after notching up his 200th grand slam victory with an imperious 6-3 6-0 6-3 second-round win over Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis, a grim-faced Nadal walked into a hurriedly arranged news conference wearing a navy blue brace around his stricken wrist.
“I have to retire from the tournament because I have a problem in my wrist that I have had a couple of weeks,” said the Spanish left-hander who turns 30 next week.
“Every day was a little bit worse. We tried to do all the treatments possible. Every single day we spent a lot of hours working so hard to try to play,” he added.
“Yesterday I played (after taking) an anaesthetic injection on the wrist,” said the dejected Spaniard, who showed no signs of the injury during his win over Bagnis.
“I could play, but the thing is yesterday night I start to feel more and more pain, and today in the morning I feel that I could not move much the wrist.”
This is the latest setback to hit the 14-times grand slam champion during an injury-plagued career.
Tendonitis in his knees prevented him from defending his Wimbledon title in 2009 and the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist also missed the 2012 London Games because of injury.
“It’s (the tendon) not torn, but if I keep playing, it’s gonna be torn in the next couple of days. Every day the MRI image is a little bit worse,” said Nadal, the only player to have won the same grand slam title nine times.
“It’s obvious that if it wasn’t Roland Garros I would not have taken the risk of playing the first two days, but it’s the most important event of the year for me so we tried our best.
“To win the tournament I needed to play five more matches, and the doctor said that’s 100 per cent impossible. That (my tendon’s) gonna be 100 per cent torn,” explained Nadal before adding that he first felt the problem during his run to the Madrid semi-finals.
“Today is one of the toughest press conferences of my career. You wait for these two weeks for the whole year, and having to retire today is a very bad news for me.
“I played the last month and a half at very high level… and I felt ready for this tournament. Now is a tough moment, but it’s not the end.”
While previous injuries and illness have kept him sidelined for months on end, Nadal hopes that he will be able to make a quick recovery and return for next month’s Wimbledon championships.
“We’re gonna work hard to be ready for Wimbledon,” he said.
“I need to keep the wrist immobilised for a couple of weeks. Then we’re gonna do the treatment and we hope the treatment works well. I hope to have a fast recovery.”