Gutted Rafa forced to put bid for 10th title on hold
Rafael Nadal's attempt to win the French Open for a 10th time will have to wait another year after the Spaniard pulled out of the tournament because of an injury to his left wrist.
An emotional Nadal announced the news yesterday at what he called "one of the toughest press conferences of my career".
Nadal said that he had arrived at Roland Garros last week with inflammation in a tendon and had attempted to play through the pain, but the problem had got worse despite having an anaesthetic injection in his wrist before his second-round match against Facundo Bagnis.
He said he had been told by doctors that there was no way he could play five more matches here, which he would have had to do to win the tournament.
"I arrived here with a little bit of pain but it was something that I thought I was able to manage," Nadal said.
"Every day it was a little bit worse. We tried to do all the treatments possible.
"Yesterday I played with an anaesthetic injection in my wrist to numb it so that I could play.
"I was able to play, but last night I started to feel more and more pain, and today in the morning I felt that I could not move the wrist much, so I came here, did an MRI scan. The results are not positive.
"If this was not Roland Garros I would probably not have taken the risk of playing the first two rounds, but this is the most important event of the year for me so we tried our best. We took risks."
The news is an especially hard blow for Nadal given that in recent weeks he had been in his best form for two years. After winning the title here in 2014 he suffered a number of physical problems and had, by his standards, a mediocre season in 2015.
This year, however, he had looked much more like his old self, especially during the European clay-court season, which he began by winning the Monte Carlo Masters.
Nadal, who will turn 30 next week, has had wrist problems in the past. Two years ago he missed the US Open because of an injury to his right wrist and before the start of this year's clay-court season he had a different problem with his left wrist.
He said the current injury had first troubled him at the Madrid Masters earlier in the month. He went to Barcelona for extensive tests but was told there was no major problem and played the following week in Rome, where he took anti-inflammatories. He played three matches in Rome, but when he returned home to Majorca last week the pain got worse.
Nadal said he had been advised that he would not need surgery. "There is a solution for this - and not a very long-term solution," he said. "We hope it's going to be quick."
However, it remains to be seen how Nadal's injury will affect his plans for the grass-court season. "We're going to work hard to be ready for Wimbledon," he said. "For the moment I need a couple of weeks with the wrist immobilised."
The immediate beneficiary of Nadal's withdrawal will be his fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers, who was due to play him in the third round today. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is now the highest seed left in what was Nadal's quarter of the draw. Looking further ahead, Novak Djokovic was seeded to meet Nadal in the semi-finals.
Andy Murray, who is in the other half of the draw, said he knew Nadal had been struggling with his wrist and that he had seen the Spaniard grimacing with pain when he had practised with him. "There's a big opportunity there for the guys in that section [of the draw]," he said.
For the tournament itself, the withdrawal of the Spaniard is clearly a huge blow, especially given the absence of Roger Federer, who pulled out last week with a back problem, and of Maria Sharapova, who failed a drugs test earlier this year.