Rafael Nadal had ups and downs so far in 2021, winning two ATP titles and struggling with injuries. The Spaniard injured his back in January ahead of the Australian Open, where he wasted two sets to love advantage against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters for a painful loss.
Rafa stayed away from the court until Monte Carlo, embracing challenging clay swing and competing in five tournaments on his beloved surface. Rafa had to dig deep in Barcelona and Rome to win titles and failed to achieve that in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Roland Garros, where Novak Djokovic beat him in the semis after an epic battle.
Struggling with a foot injury in the closing stages, Nadal could not do much against Djokovic in the fourth set, and he did not practice for three weeks, skipping both Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. Nadal was feeling better on the practice court in July and opted to enter Washington with a wild card, competing in the American capital for the first time.
Rafael Nadal experienced foot injury in the Roland Garros semis vs. Djokovic.
In his interview after a practice session at the City Open, Nadal spoke about that foot injury and the tough decision to stay away from Wimbledon and the Olympic Games.
In his most recent match on the Tour, Nadal experienced a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 loss to Djokovic in the Roland Garros semi-final. It was their 50th encounter, and Novak had the upper hand with 50 winners and eight breaks on his tally.
Dominating the shortest and more advanced rallies, the Serb grabbed the crucial points to open two sets to love advantage and left Rafa behind in the fourth set, when the Spaniard evidently struggled with a physical shape.
Rafa practiced with Grigor Dimitrov and Sebastian Korda in Washington and will play his first match on Wednesday. "I have had some problems after Roland Garros, for which I could not play a couple of significant tournaments for me, such as Wimbledon and the Olympics.
My body decided for myself. If I had to choose, I would never miss Wimbledon and the Olympics, but I could not compete in these events. I had some issues with my foot and had to stop playing for 20 days. Then I started practicing, first for half an hour, and then a bit more. I went through the whole process," Rafael Nadal said.