Rafa Nadal has revealed for the first time that he suffered a recurrence of an abdominal tear in the lead-up to this year's US Open, but kept the injury a secret. Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open in 2022, however his year was blighted by a number of significant injuries and off-court dramas.
He was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon in July ahead of a semi-final showdown with Nick Kyrgios after tearing an abdominal muscle in the quarter-finals. Then in September he crashed out of the US Open in the round of 16 after a shock loss to Frances Tiafoe.
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Fans and commentators noticed that Nadal didn't seem himself at the US Open, but many put it down to the fact that wife Xisca was in hospital at the time due to complications with her pregnancy. But in an interview with Spanish publication Marca, Nadal has since revealed that he had actually torn his abdominal again.
"In that scenario I rupture my abdominal - retire and do not play in the semi-finals against Nick Kyrgios - and from then on the year has been a disaster, because I ruptured my abdominal again the week before the US Open," he revealed. "I didn't I wanted to say anything at the time because I was tired of telling sorrows."
Nadal has battled a debilitating foot injury for a number of years and was forced to take pain-killing injections to win the Australian Open. The 36-year-old revealed he was considering retirement after the injury flared again on his way to winning the French Open - which gave him a men's record 22 grand slam titles.
However a groundbreaking procedure in which the nerves in his foot were effectively 'burned' off has given him a new lease on life. The treatment has come at the best possible time for the new father.
"Now I am much happier, beyond winning or losing on the court, because I was suffering from a limp," he explained. "I played tennis with lots and lots of anti-inflammatories but I was limping all day long.
"I thought I had to quit tennis because I had lost my vitality and I was a sad person most days. After winning at Roland Garros I was happy but at the same time I thought I was going to have to retire if a solution was not found for my foot because I could not continue with those chronic pains."
Rafa Nadal's personal joy amid painful year on tennis court
Nadal played at the US Open while his wife was in hospital in Mallorca, before rushing home to be with her when his campaign in New York came to an end. He also made an appearance at the Laver Cup later in September just so he could help farewell his great friend and rival Roger Federer.
Nadal and Federer teamed up for a doubles match for Team Europe before Nadal withdrew and once again flew home to be with Xisca. The couple later welcomed a baby boy - their first child.
"When I look back on this year, the difficult moments and the injuries will fade into the background and I will have won two grand slam titles, so the final balance is fantastic and very exciting, although also very painful. That's the reality," he said.
Nadal will begin his preparations for the 2023 Australian Open at the new United Cup in Sydney - where Spain will play Australia in the second round of the mixed-gender team event. Nadal will then head to Melbourne Park where he will be looking to win his 23rd major and extend his lead over Novak Djokovic - who arrived in Australia on Tuesday just under 12 months after he was deported from the country.
"I think I'll need a few days in Australia," Nadal said last week. "I'm aware that I'm a little bit short (of fitness), but I'm confident that I'll be able to pick up the level I need to be competitive in Australia."
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