Rafael Nadal Injury: Updates on Tennis Star's Back and Recovery

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2014

Rafael Nadal of Spain grimaces as he receives a medical treatment to his back in the men's singles final against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Updates from Monday, Jan. 27

Iain Rogers of Reuters.com provides a statement from Rafael Nadal's coach discussing the star's back injury:

"The doctor said it's a tightening of the muscles and a few days rest should be enough," said Toni.

"He went into the match after feeling twinges during the week but very minor ones that normally do not affect you at all.

"In the second game of the second set he felt a pinch. When I asked him after treatment what was happening he said 'it's over'."

Rogers also provided a synopsis of Nadal's uncle discussing when fans should expect to see him play next:

Rafa Nadal should recover from the back problem that wrecked his Australian Open final after a few days rest, his uncle and coach Toni told Spanish radio on Monday.


His uncle told Cadena Ser's El Larguero show his nephew planned to return to his native Mallorca from Melbourne before heading to Argentina where he is due to take part in a clay event in Buenos Aires starting on February 10.

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Rafael Nadal wasn't able to overcome eighth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2014 Australian Open final, but the main questions coming from that match are mostly centered around the long-term health of the Spaniard's back.

Nadal, who went down 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 3-6 in his first career loss to Wawrinka, was seen heavily favoring his back throughout the match—specifically in a concerning second set. The world's top-ranked player required an injury timeout down a break at 2-1, causing a delay in the match and stoking the ire of Wawrinka.    

"Since the beginning I felt it a little bit, from the warm-up," Nadal said, per Piers Newbery of BBC Sport. "At the end of the first set, I started to feel worse. Then at the beginning of the second was the key moment that I felt, during a serve in a bad movement, it was very stiff, very bad."

Despite the pain, Nadal soldiered on but was noticeably a shell of himself. His serves were particularly affected, dipping well below the 100 mph mark at multiple points and allowing Wawrinka to take advantage. Ricky Dimon pointed out a particular instance of a Nadal serve being just 55 mph, though it was surprisingly effective:

Later in the second, Nadal was actually reduced to tears because of the pain during a changeover. The severity of the injury remains unclear. Nadal noted after the match that he simply ceded to the advice of the medical staff at Rod Laver Arena, but acknowledged that he felt limited. 

"You can ask the physio, because in that moment I was too worried to think about what happened," Nadal said. "The physio tried to relax a little bit the back. When that happens during a match it's almost impossible. I tried hard."

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Nadal would get stronger at certain points in the match, ramping up his service speed in both the third and fourth sets—the former of which he won. By midway through the fourth, though, it was clear Nadal was gassed, mentally and physically as he was unable to execute his plan for the match.

The loss prevented the Spaniard from making history as the first player in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam multiple times. Nadal, 27, will have plenty more opportunities to go Down Under and capture his second title at the Australian Open, but it's at least fair to wonder about his long-term physical fitness.

Remember, Nadal is still less than a year removed from his return from career-threatening knee injuries. He recovered to the tune of two Grand Slams and 10 individual tournament crowns in 2013, but knee and back problems are among the most debilitating for tennis players. Both restrict movement and have difficult recovery periods due to the torque placed on them with every swing.  

Nadal did not indicate whether he'll be cost any time. He was not scheduled to appear in Spain's first-round Davis Cup tie against Germany, but the ATP schedule isn't one that allows for much rest. Still, with plenty of time before the clay court season really kicks off, Nadal will have time to get healthy should he need it. 


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