PARIS – The Grand Slam is still in play.
On Friday, Rafael Nadal confirmed at a news conference in Majorca that he will travel to London on Monday with the intention of playing Wimbledon, which begins on June 27.
Nadal, who has won the first two Grand Slam tournaments of the year, had cast doubt on his participation in Wimbledon because of his chronic left foot problem.
The condition, Muller-Weiss syndrome, has troubled him since his late teens. He received painkilling injections from his personal physician to numb the foot before each of his matches at this year’s French Open.
Nadal won that clay-court tournament for the 14th time on June 5, extending his lead in the three-way major titles race with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Nadal now has a men’s record 22 Grand Slam singles titles, two more than Djokovic, whom Nadal beat in the quarterfinals in Paris, and Federer, who at age 40 is still recovering from his latest knee surgery. But Nadal said he would not take similar injections or measures at Wimbledon and instead has tried to find a longer-term solution for his foot by undergoing radio frequency ablation, which deadens nerves through the use of radio waves.
Nadal, 36, had the procedure in Barcelona on June 7, leaving the medical facility on crutches, but he resumed practicing on grass this week on his home island of Majorca. He said on Friday that although the procedure did not give him “100 percent” relief immediately, he was able to push off with his left foot with less pain. He said that there was still occasional numbness in his foot but that he had been told that should dissipate with time.
“I’m content,” Nadal said on Friday. “I’ve gone a week without limping. Day to day, I have experienced some different kind of pain than what I had before. That’s progress for me. We will have to wait and see how everything evolves. “
While confirming that he intended to play Wimbledon, Nadal also confirmed that he and his wife Maria Francisca Perello are expecting their first child.
“I don’t know how it changes your life because I don’t have experience with that,” he said. “But this does not change my professional life.”
On Friday, Nadal trained on the grass at the Mallorca Country Club with Feliciano Lopez, the 40-year-old Spanish veteran who is set to play Wimbledon for the 20th consecutive time.
Nadal, who won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, has not played in any grass-court tournament since 2019, when he lost in the semifinals of Wimbledon to his longtime rival Federer.
“I’ve still got a week of training in London, and if everything goes well I will start the tournament,” said Nadal, who is scheduled to play in an exhibition in London before Wimbledon. “Playing well at the French Open helps in terms of confidence and gives you a bit more peace of mind. But grass is a very difficult surface in the sense that there is little logic. Obviously when you have gone the years that I’ve gone without playing on grass and with the fact I am not going to play official matches beforehand, any round could be complicated. “
Nadal has made a habit of talking down his chances, but the men’s field at Wimbledon will be understrength this year. Wimbledon has barred Russian and Belarusian players because of the war in Ukraine, which means that No. 1 ranked Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 Andrey Rublev, both Russians, will not take part. No. 2 Alexander Zverev of Germany tore ligaments in his right ankle in his French Open semifinal against Nadal and underwent surgery. Zverev could be out of action for several months.
But Novak Djokovic, the world’s best grass-court player in recent years, will play Wimbledon, where he has won the last three men’s singles titles. He will be seeded No. 1 and start as a strong favorite. Nadal will be seeded No. 2, and like Djokovic a year ago, is chasing a Grand Slam, which requires a player to win all four majors in the same calendar year.
The last man to do it was Rod Laver in 1969. Djokovic came up one match short, losing the 2021 US Open final to Medvedev. Nadal, for the first time in his long career, has won the first two legs of the Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open.
But he has not won Wimbledon in 12 years and has not won any grass-court title in seven years.