Rafael Nadal’s love affair at the French Open continues despite fears about his future French Open 2022

Shortly after Rafael Nadal completed his superior quarterfinal win against Novak Djokovic, as a marvel of his four-plus-hour effort hung in the air among the many thousands still in attendance, Marion Bartoli ended her post-match interview with a plea, almost begging Nadal to commit to returning next year. It’s fair to say he didn’t: “See you in two days, that’s all I can say,” he said with a smile.

Nadal’s effort until the early hours of Wednesday was superior. Even beyond the discussion of his fitness, Nadal reached the quarterfinals with some of his worst preparations for such a match in Paris. He never, in his 17 years of competition here, opposed the French Open without reaching a single Masters 1000 final during the clay season that year. For all the endurance of Félix Auger-Aliassime in their five-set fourth round match, in the two sets Nadal lost he knocked out a combined 28 non-binding errors to just 13 winners. By his standards, it was terrible.

He not only raised his level relative to the ever-great one before him, but his level was a stratosphere from the start. He came out of the gates bullying Djokovic in the early exchanges, unfolding his forearm at will, and although Nadal also started quickly in their previous two matches in Paris, even with the data Djokovic compiled over their 58 previous. matches, he was initially unprepared to match it. As Nadal finished the match was equally impressive, with the prospect of a fifth set threatening when Djokovic led 5-3 and then created two set points on his serve, he again raised his level just when needed.

Beyond another superb display of Nadal, the most notable aspect of his new French Open race was the doubt that he would continue to throw his future beyond this tournament. Nadal has not always been the most reliable analyst when it comes to his conditioning and readiness to win a tournament. Despite his ability to overcome fitness and physical issues over and over again, he often manages expectations and has always been sincere about his doubts.

His tendency to lower his form or condition before a tournament, only to roar back to success, prompted a curious comment from Djokovic: “I’m not surprised at all. come out 100% physically fit, ”he said.

But it is reasonable to believe that this is different. His chronic illness, Mueller-Weiss syndrome, is a condition he has had since his youth and as a degenerative syndrome, it is likely to become a major factor before the end of his career. In Paris, Nadal made a distinction between his prospects during the tournament, which he thinks will be good, compared to what happens next without a long-term solution for his foot. He stressed the need to enjoy this year because of the doubt about his future beyond it.

Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his quarter-final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal has Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, which could hinder the last stages of his career. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters

Nadal said that one of the main differences between the Italian Open when he could not move during his loss to Denis Shapovalov in his last match before the French Open, and Paris is that he has his doctor, Ángel Ruiz Cotorro, with him here. , helping to treat the wound. Nadal says he will discuss his current circumstances later.

“We’ll talk after the tournament,” he said in Spanish. “Right now, we’re leaving everything on the court, no doubt. I don’t know what happens next here. But I said after Rome and here too that I can compete and I do. Now is not the time to give many explanations, but I have them. After the tournament, when I finish, I’ll explain. ”

Despite the intensity and significance of Nadal’s victory, the brutal nature of a quarterfinal match between Djokovic and Nadal is much of the tournament remains. While it is reasonable to predict that Nadal will go through the rest of the draw as always after defeating the best player in the world, he now faces the third best in terms of rank.

Aleksandr Zverev proved his own skills in his quarter-final victory over Carlos Alcaraz and he clearly enjoys the current position in which he found himself, far from the exaltation he commanded in his youth, completely overlooked. It would be unwise to overlook him again. However, Nadal positioned himself ideally as he chased his 14th title in Paris.

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