The ATP tour has seen many classic rivalries over the years. But one of the most captivating rivalries on the tour has been between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Both players have battled numerous times on the court and have always got the crowd on their feet. They were going head-to-head until this year for the Grand Slam race.
While Nadal has suffered from injuries, Djokovic took three majors this year to make history. Nadal led the grand slam race at the start of the year with 22 titles. Now Djokovic has taken the lead with 24 titles. There have always been doubts that Nadal would have outperformed Djokovic had he not been injured on the tour. The world No. 664 has been stuck with injuries since the start of his career.
Rafael Nadal’s injuries during his initial years on tour
Nadal turned professional in 2001 at the age of 15. He suffered his first injury in 2003 when he fell on his elbow. He could not make his debut at the French Open and suffered early exits at Wimbledon and the US Open. In 2004, Nadal missed the French Open and Wimbledon due to a stress fracture on his ankle.
At the end of the 2005 season, Nadal injured his left foot, resulting in his absence at the 2006 Australian Open. In his comeback, he won the French Open for the second time and was a finalist at Wimbledon. After his first loss at the French Open in 2009, it was revealed that the former world No. 1 was suffering from tendonitis.
Rafael Nadal’s X-Ray list of injuries. After today we can add ‘left hip’ to the list.
I don’t even want to think about all the slams and titles he missed out on due to this truckload of physical problems. pic.twitter.com/vw3ZWw17aR
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) January 18, 2023
Nadal did not play at Wimbledon in 2009 and retired in the quarterfinals in Australia in 2010. After enjoying a successful stint on the tour for two years, Nadal was hit with tendonitis and a patella tendon tear in 2012. He lost to Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon and did not play at the US Open. Nadal also did not appear at the London Olympics to defend his title.
Rafael Nadal’s injury timeline from 2013 to 2023
Nadal started his 2013 season by being absent from the Australian Open due to a stomach virus. After capturing two grand slam titles in 2013, Nadal was stuck with a wrist injury, which made him unavailable for the 2014 US Open. He also had a back injury in the same season.
Two years later, after winning the gold in doubles at the Rio Olympics, Nadal got a wrist injury again, making him sit out at Wimbledon. After being injury-free for a few years, the 22-time French Open champion suffered severe foot pain after losing in the 2021 French Open semifinals. Nadal could not play at Wimbledon and skipped the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open.
Rafael Nadal’s last 13 grand slams he participated in:
🥈 🟡 2019 AO
🥇 🟠 2019 RG
SF 🟢 2019 WB
🥇 🔵 2019 USO
QF 🟡 2020 AO
🥇 🟠 2020 RG
QF 🟡 2021 AO (back)
SF 🟠 2021 RG (foot)
🥇 🟡 2022 AO
🥇 🟠 2022 RG (foot)
SF 🟢 2022 WB (abs)
4R 🔵 2022 USO (abs)
2R 🟡 2023 AO (hip) pic.twitter.com/fa9RrDZl9a
— Swish 🍒 (@Zwxsh) July 26, 2023
In his valiant comeback in 2022, Rafael Nadal won the first two grand slams of the season but got injured at Wimbledon. He reached the semifinals but had to issue a walkover due to an abdominal tear. At this year’s Australian Open, Nadal made an early exit due to a hip injury and did not play for the rest of the season. It has been his most prolonged absence on tour yet.