The worst rival of Rafael Nadal’s career was not another tennis player, but a dying disease he suffered from for 17 years.
This reality also accompanied him this Sunday, when the Spanish tennis player won his 22nd major tournament, surpassing his own record as the winner of a major tournament on the men’s world professional tennis circuit in all history.
Nadal comfortably beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0 to take his French Open win tally to 14.
However, his undisputed mastery of the Grand Slam He was accompanied by a medical condition that haunted him throughout his career and even temporarily sidelined him. It is Muller-Weiss syndromeAlso known as scaphoid osteochondritisa condition rare, degenerative and incurable which produced great pain and caused the tennis player to play with an anesthetized foot.
The the tarsal scaphoid is a bone present in the feet and essential to its functioning. If it deforms, as it does with this syndrome, “it can affect movement and be very painful”, warns the Traumatology and Physiotherapy Clinic in Malaga.
“This disease causes severe pain and loss of mobility which greatly conditions the quality of life of those who suffer from it, ”he explains to the newspaper the vanguard Laia López-Capdevila, orthopedic specialist in foot and ankle surgery at the Diagonal Clinic, in Barcelona.
Exactly what causes it is unknown. There are those who argue that it occurs due to poor circulation in the scaphoid and others who believe that it occurs after repetitive strain injuries. It only shows symptoms when little can be done to treat it.
It is so rare that there are few reported cases in the medical literature.
Among the little that is known, we have seen that it affects women more and that it usually appears between the ages of 45 and 60, which makes the case of Nadal – who presents it on his left foot – even more atypical .
Nadal on Müller-Weiss syndrome: ‘I play to be happy, but the pain takes away your happiness’
The tennis player was diagnosed with Müller-Weiss syndrome as a teenager in 2005, the same year, he won his first Roland Garros. Months earlier, he had suffered a stress fracture in the affected foot, according to a report by abcnews.
Although he has gone on to add countless titles since then, even breaking world records, the syndrome has forced Nadal to retire from the pitch on several occasions, as happened last year when resigned from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, and He even had to undergo surgery and go six months without playing.
Against the predictions of those who feared he would not recover, he managed to return.
But the Müller-Weiss syndrome has also visibly affected his performances in some matches, such as a recent one at the Masters 1000 in Rome where he was practically able to move in the third set due to severe pain.
“I’m a player who lives with constant injuries. It’s my daily life. It’s hard, really… and of course sometimes I have a hard time accepting it. I still had a lot of foot pain and that’s it, ”explained the tennis player himself after this defeat against Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
At that time, he warned that ” There will come a day when my head will tell me enough is enough.
“I play to be happy, but of course the pain takes away your happiness. My problem is that many days I live with too much pain. I love what I do, but it gives me many bad days,” he added.
Special insoles for the anesthetized foot against long-lasting pain
The use of special models which diverted the fulcrum of the foot and special shoes allowed the tennis player to continue playing, as reported ace.
However, they weren’t enough either as Nadal had to resort to more extreme measures such as playing with the anesthetized foot and take the doctor who treated him all these years, Angelo Ruiz Cotorro, to Roland Garros this year.
There could still be a more drastic solution: a surgical procedure called arthrodesis in which the scaphoid joints are fused with the talus bone, but that would mean giving up professional tennis, warns a report published in the vanguard.
“This operation would force Rafa Nadal to retire from professional tennis. This would not prevent him from making flexo-extension movements, vertically around the ankle, up and down, but he would lose his mobility on the sides”, Laila López-Capdevila, orthopedic specialist in foot and ankle surgery ankle at the Diagonal Clinic, in Barcelona , tells this outlet. .
“I don’t know if this will be my last match”, warned Nadal
“I know my situation and I accept it. I can not complain. Two and a half weeks ago I didn’t know if I could be here, so I just appreciate the fact that I’m here for another year,” he said during an address during the tournament.
Before playing against Djokovic on Tuesday, he warned that he didn’t know if it would be his last game. “I don’t know what will happen. I know I’m going to play this tournament because we’re doing things to be ready, but I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Despite the agony he faces, he emerged victorious. A triumph which, added to that of the semi-finals, brought him closer to victory at Roland Garros for the fourteenth time, which materialized this Sunday by comfortably beating the Norwegian.
Nadal said he doesn’t know what the future holds for him after winning the Roland Garros champion trophy, what is a fact is that the chances of a forced retirement increase a bit more.
At 36 and with his historic list of victories, the Mallorcan tennis player no longer has to prove who is the best.