Rafael Nadal’s uncle has described how the champion tennis player has suffered immensely due to injury for the bulk of his career, relying heavily on painkillers to get him through matches.
Toni Nadal, the man who coached and mentored “Rafa” for much of his career, said the 16-time grand slam champion was told in 2005 his career was likely over due to a foot injury.
“In 2005 they told us they detected a problem in Rafa’s foot – a congenital injury – and the specialist we went to told us that Rafael’s career was pretty much finished,” Toni Nadal said at the Congreso Murcia Sport and Business on Friday.
“From the end of 2005 on, Rafael had to constantly live in pain. From that time on we couldn’t finish training sessions a lot of the time.
The current number two player in the world has endured injuries to his feet, wrist, back, hamstring and, most persistently, his knees, over the years.
He most recently suffered a hip injury in the Australian Open in January, forcing him out in the quarter-finals.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2018
He has since pulled out of the Acapulco and Indian Wells tournaments.
Toni Nadal said Rafael’s foot injury at the age of 19 led to further complications, and a career-long reliance on painkillers.
“A lot of times, almost always, he would have to take a painkiller because the pain would get worse and worse as matches went on,” he said.
“Because of some insoles that he started using, which solved his foot problem, he started having problems in his knee, back and other parts of his body.
“I remember in 2013 he told me once … after his year had been really good … he told me ‘sometimes I wish I’d win less and have less pain’.”
After his Australian Open exit, Nadal blasted ATP tour organisers over players’ intense schedule and workload.
“Somebody who is running the tour should think a little bit about what’s going on,” Nadal said.
“Too many people are getting injured.
“I don’t know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis.
“I don’t know if we keep playing on these very, very hard surfaces what’s going to happen in the future with our lives.”
Nadal is working on his recovery in the hope of participating in Spain’s Davis Cup quarter final against Germany in April.