One-Legged Warrior: Rafael Nadal’s Struggles in Washington 2021


Rafael Nadal is not ready to embrace the North American hard court, struggling with an ongoing hip injury. Rafa was miles from his best at this time of the season in the previous two years, experiencing setbacks and failing to chase notable titles. Two years ago, the Spaniard took a break after Roland Garros, skipping Wimbledon and the Olympic Games before taking a surprising wild card in Washington. Despite the efforts, Nadal could not play at his best in the American capital, losing in the third round and still feeling a sharp pain in his foot. Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya described his problems, admitting Rafa played against Lloyd Harris almost on one leg! Rafa debuted in Washington in the second round against Jack Sock. He pushed his foot in a three-hour win, prevailing in the deciding tie break for his first victory in over a month and a half. Nadal stepped on the court against Lloyd Harris in the third round and suffered a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 defeat in two hours and ten minutes. The Spaniard did not play badly, but it was not enough to carry him home after losing ground in the pivotal moments.

Rafael Nadal played with a foot injury in Washington 2021.

Harris fired 16 aces and saved four out of six break chances to keep the pressure on the other side. Nadal played against three break opportunities and experienced one loose service game in sets one and three to end his run earlier than expected. Rafa had 26 winners and 11 unforced errors. In comparison, Lloyd counted 38 winners and 21 mistakes, playing aggressive tennis and doing everything right when it mattered the most. Unable to deal with the pain, Nadal withdrew from Toronto and ended his season, undergoing a minor procedure on his foot in Barcelona. 

“The foot injury got worse last year following that long break. Rafa failed to finish many training sessions. We had to change the training and reduce the pressure on the foot, thinking of tournaments. He has been in pain for months. In the last match against Lloyd Harris at Washington, Rafa was practically on one leg. Rafa’s main objective is to regain good feeling with his foot and mentally because hobbling around all year has not helped him. He started with back pain in Australia and has played just seven events this season. Rafa had to withdraw from Wimbledon, Tokyo, and now the US Open and ATP Finals. That’s why he has to concentrate on himself, not what’s happening on the Tour,” Carlos Moya said.

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