Rafael Nadal announced on Friday that he is retiring from this year’s US Open and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season due to chronic left foot disease which has troubled him intermittently since he was a teenager.
“I have been in too much pain in my foot for a year now,” Nadal said in a video posted to social media.
Nadal, 35 and four-time US Open champion, recently won the singles title in New York in 2019. He beat Daniil Medvedev in a five-set classic, then collapsed in tears in his chair as he ‘he was watching a memorial ceremony. video honoring his career.
But Nadal chose not to defend his title last year when the US Open was played without spectators and with significant health restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, after losing in the semi-finals of Roland Garros to Novak Djokovic, Nadal did not play at Wimbledon or the Olympics as he tried to resolve his foot problem. He returned to action in Washington this month, but his movement was clearly still affected by the injury as he beat Jack Sock in his opener, then lost to Lloyd Harris in the next round. Nadal traveled to Toronto but withdrew from the Masters 1000 event there and returned home to Spain to assess his options.
“I needed to speak with my family, with my team and with my doctors especially to understand what is going on,” the fourth Nadal said on Friday. “But the foot is not the right way today and over the past year I haven’t been able to train and prepare the way I need to be competitive in the level that I want to be. So we had to make this decision, but I am convinced that I will recover 100% and that I can fight again for the most important things. “
Nadal’s left foot condition initially hampered him on tour during the 2004 season when he was 17, forcing him to miss much of the season on clay. This delayed his Roland Garros debut until 2005, when he won the first of his record 13 singles titles at Roland Garros.
But Nadal’s foot started to trouble him again in October 2005 at the Madrid Open. He explained that doctors determined it was a congenital problem: a deformity of a small bone in his foot. He was also told that he might not play professional tennis again. But at 19, Nadal found a way to reduce stress on the bones with tailored insoles and returned to action in 2006, winning five titles including Roland Garros.
“The injury is nothing new,” Nadal said on Friday. “It’s the same injury I’ve had since 2005. At that point, the doctors were very negative about my future career, but honestly I was able to have a career that I never dreamed of, so I am confident that I will recover again and if the foot gets better I am glad my tennis and the mentality are back soon. You can be sure I will fight every day to make this happen. “
Nadal’s withdrawal means that for the second year in a row he and Federer will miss the US Open. Federer, 40, announced last week that he would miss the remainder of the 2021 season and would need a fourth knee surgery. Dominic Thiem, who won the US Open last year, suffers from a right wrist injury and is also out for the remainder of the season.
Longtime rivals Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have each won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, sharing the men’s record. But Djokovic will continue his 21st single in New York if he can recover from the shoulder injury that prompted him to withdraw from the mixed doubles bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.
Djokovic will also try to finish the first Grand Slam in men’s singles since Rod Laver led it in 1969. Djokovic has won the first three stages of the Grand Slam this year: the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon .