Rafael Nadal announced that his 2016 season will come to an end due to a left wrist injury, ESPN reported. The 30-year-old Spanish superstar injured his wrist in May and has apparently had issues with the tendon sheath in his wrist. Painkilling injections did not work during his French Open run, which he had to withdraw from.
Despite his nagging wrist Nadal played in the Olympics in Brazil in August and won a doubles gold medal. Following his participation in the Olympics, he suffered some fluid build up in his wrist which further aggravated the injury. He admitted, however, that his forced recovery to play in the Brazil Olympics caused him even more pain in every tournament since August.
Nadal was expected to play in the Swiss Indoors Basel in late October and the World Tour Finals in November. Currently ranked 6th in the world, he was forced to pull out of the French Open and miss the much-anticipated Wimbledon.
Nadal revealed, “This forced recovery has caused me pain since then and now I am forced to stop and start preparing the 2017 season. I am very saddened for not being able to play next week in Basel since I have a great memory of the tournament and the final played against Roger Federer last year.”
Despite the wrist injury, Nadal impressively won two ATP titles in 2016, but struggled in the US Open and the Australian Open. He lost in the first round of the Australian Open, only the second time he has lost in the round in such a major tournament.
For professional tennis players, wrist injuries are a significant cause of concern. Wrist injuries are akin to foot injuries for football players. While successful recovery is expected on his left wrist, Nadal, being a left-hander, might face major obstacles throughout his remaining years as a tennis player. In 2014, Nadal suffered a right wrist injury, his off-hand. Following the injury, in 2015 the Spaniard won his fewest titles since 2005.
There has been a decline in Nadal’s performance, however. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim said that Nadal’s shots are “not penetrating the court” according to stats and on-court evidence. From 2013 to 2014, Nadal won 83% of matches, with only 21% reaching deciding sets. In 2015, 30% of matches went to deciding sets, but Nadal won 57% of matches.
Nadal has won 14 Grand Titles, 28 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and 17 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments. The Spaniard’s accomplishments cannot be denied and are one of the best in tennis history. However, Nadal’s latest wrist injury is an indication of declining performance for the past two years, particularly following his right wrist injury in 2014. Nadal has also been suffering from knee and back issues, which do not bode well with his game that is built on top-notch physical conditioning. This might spell the beginning of the end for Nadal, unless a change in style and play is in place for the 30-year-old Spaniard.