Rafael Nadal's Abdominal Woes: The Struggle Behind the Scenes

Rafael Nadal has not played since the first week of the season

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Abdominal Woes: The Struggle Behind the Scenes
© Chris Unger / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal withdrew from his beloved Monte Carlo Masters, training in Mallorca but not participating in the official action since January. Speaking about his issues, Rafa revealed an ongoing abdominal injury, dealing with it for two months and missing Doha, Indian Wells and Monte Carlo.

Rafa played his first tournament after almost a year at the beginning of the season in Brisbane, suffering a heavy loss in the quarter-final after blowing three match points versus Jordan Thompson. They battled for three hours and 25 minutes, and Rafa felt the pain around his troubled hip, withdrawing from the Australian Open and heading home.

A 22-time Major winner left that setback behind before experiencing another, feeling the pain in his abdominal muscle like at Wimbledon 2022.

Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© Chris Unger / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Not risking anything, Nadal stayed away from Doha before traveling to the USA.

The Spaniard met his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in The Netflix Slam exhibition in Las Vegas and trained in the desert. However, the pain was still there (alongside slight issues with his lower back, which is probably related), and Rafa decided to miss the opening Masters 1000 event of the season and focus on his clay swing.

Despite dynamic training sessions at his tennis complex, Nadal had to cancel his Monte Carlo participation, still dealing with pain and not feeling at his best. Rafa could not announce his next tournament, working hard and hoping to pass another obstacle and return to the competition.

Everything worked great for the Spaniard in the first half of 2022 despite physical issues, claiming the Australian Open and Roland Garros for the first time in a career and standing on 22 Major titles! Nadal felt the pain in his abdominal muscle at Wimbledon, barely beating Taylor Fritz in the quarter-final and withdrawing ahead of the semi-final clash against Nick Kyrgios.

Almost two years later, it remains Rafa's most recent deep run, struggling in the rest of 2022 and missing a chance to become world no. 1 at 36. Instead of making a better start in 2023, Rafa experienced a career-threatening injury at the Australian Open against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.

Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2022© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal explained his ongoing physical issues.

Nadal hurt his left hip in the closing stages of the second set, refusing to surrender but gathering dark clouds after just a couple of weeks of the new season!

The Spaniard missed the upcoming tournaments and underwent surgery in June, enjoying the summer with his family and friends and wrapping up the season. Rafa started practicing and made improvements on the court and gym, announcing his comeback in the first week of 2024.

Competing for the first time after 349 days, Nadal met Dominic Thiem in the first round and played well. The veteran broke the old rival's resistance in the closing stages of the opening set and dominated the second, celebrating a much-needed win.

Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2023© Daniel Pockett / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafa ousted Jason Kubler in the second round, following another strong performance on serve and return, which gave his fans a boost of confidence.

However, the veteran experienced a massive blow in the quarter-final, wasting three match points versus Jordan Thompson in a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss after nearly three and a half hours. Nadal had a chance to seal the deal in straight sets, wasting his opportunities in the closing stages of the second set and allowing his rival to introduce a decider.

Rafa's body could not endure such an effort after not competing for a year, with a 22-time Major winner feeling the pain around his troubled hip. Nadal asked for a medical timeout in the middle of the final set, battling until the end but losing serve once and propelling his rival over the top.

Rafa underwent an MRI in Melbourne, revealing a micro tear in his muscle. He withdrew from the Australian Open, unprepared to embrace the best-of-five duels. Rafa took a few weeks off and hit the practice court in Mallorca. He felt discomfort in his abdominal muscles and skipped Doha, remaining at home and training for Indian Wells, hoping for a good run in the desert.

Meanwhile, Nadal faced Carlos Alcaraz at The Netflix Slam in Las Vegas, losing 3-6, 6-4, 12-10 after two hours. Still feeling the issues while serving, Rafa decided to withdraw from Indian Wells and throw everything on his beloved clay swing.

An 11-time champion could not recover in time by Monte Carlo, staying at home and hoping to enter Barcelona or Madrid in the upcoming weeks.

Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2023© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"I'm going day by day, and I can not confirm my next tournament.

I had to skip Monte Carlo due to some physical and mental issues. I have been working hard, but I'm incapable of fighting for my goals, causing me mental pressure. Also, I have been dealing with abdominal problems for two months, ever since I returned from Australia.

I left my Brisbane injury behind and started training at home. However, I felt abdominal discomfort, and I'm yet to recover. That's why I'm cautiously making decisions," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal