Tennis news | Raphael Nadal | Roland Garros | foot injury

Only 10 days before the start of Roland-Garros, Rafael Nadal is once again struggling with an injury.

Nadal was hampered by a foot problem near the end of a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open on Thursday.

At one point Nadal, 35, approached and leaned on his towel box and winced in apparent pain. He was also limping between the points.

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Nadal missed much of last year with a left foot injury.

“I hurt my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said. “I’m a player who lives with an injury. It’s not new. It’s something that exists, unfortunately. Day to day, it’s difficult.

It was a worrying scene for Nadal, especially with Roland-Garros starting on May 22.

“What can happen in the next few days, I don’t know,” said Nadal, who has won the French Open a record 13 times. “What can happen in a week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal returned to the circuit last week after a fracture of stress in the coast which prevented him from participating for six weeks after a dazzling start of the year which included his record of 21st Grand Chelem title at the Australian Open .

“It’s sometimes difficult for me to accept the situation,” Nadal said. “It can be frustrating not being able to train in the right way.”

Nadal was also beaten by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last week.

Nadal double faulted twice, then missed a long backhand to give Shapovalov a break from his serve and the second set. Shapovalov then took full control by winning 14 straight points late in the third.

“It’s really hard to watch him suffer at the end,” said Shapovalov, who will face Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals. “I never want to see that, especially with a great legend like Rafa… He brings so much to our sport. I hope he’s fit and ready to leave for the French.”

An injured Rafael Nadal shows his frustration during his loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open. (AP)

Nadal, who won the Italian Open a record of 10 times, said that his foot had started to hurt him in the middle of the second set, adding: “So (it was) not playable for me.”

Earlier, Novak Djokovic, the best classified, was not disturbed during a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Stan Wawrinka, who only played his second tournament after having undergone two operations on the left foot.

Djokovic, five-time champion in Rome, will next face Felix Auger-Aliassime, who ended the run of American qualifier Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 6-2 victory. This will be the first meeting between Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime.

Rafael Nadal is out of the Italian Open after losing in the third round to Denis Shapovalov. (Getty)

In the women’s tournament, top-ranked Iga Swiatek was tested before claiming a 6-4, 6-1 win over former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka to reach the quarter-finals and extend her winning streak to 25 matches.

Azarenka took a 3-0 lead before Swiatek won five straight matches in a grueling first set that lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes.

“My first serve didn’t work properly,” Swiatek said. “But I am happy to have been able to win in a way ugly in the first set, then improve myself in the second. It gives me confidence that even when my game is not 100% good, I can still win matches.”

Swiatek is looking to win his fifth consecutive tournament and defend his title in Rome.

The last player to win more consecutive games was Serena Williams, who had a 27-game winning streak in 2014 and 2015.

“(The streak) doesn’t really matter to me because every game is different,” Swiatek said. “In many matches I struggled this season, even though I won them. Anything can happen. Every game is a different story.”

Novak Djokovic in action at the Italian Open. (Getty)

Swiatek’s run makes her a favorite to win a second French Open when the second Grand Slam of the year kicks off in 10 days. When Swiatek won at Roland Garros in 2020, she was ranked No. 54, making her the lowest-ranked woman to win the Paris major in the Open era.

Sign of the difficulty for Swiatek to keep the service on the grounded terre land of Foro Italico, she played more than twice as many points on her service than Zarenka – 98 to 47.

Azarenka was shaken when a spectator entered the first row of the VIP section almost empty just behind her while she was facing a break point at the end of the first set. When she then committed a double fault to give Swiatek the control of the set, she slammed her racket of frustration and complained to the interruption referee in the middle of the game.

Swiatek next faces 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who eliminated Croatian qualifier Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4.

The strongest acclaim of the day were for Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who beat Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (6) to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in his home tournament.

Sinner will then face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who exceeded Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 for a 29th victory of the year at the top of the circuit.

Moreover, 2017 Roma champion Alexander Zverev, who also just qualified for the Madrid final, beat Alex De Minaur 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Zverev, who is still looking for his first title of the year, has his father and coach, Alexander, back on the circuit with him after a prolonged absence for reasons that the family has kept personal.

When Zverev won the ATP Finals in November, his older brother and fellow professional Mischa was coaching him.

“I missed a coach for six months,” Zverev said. “That’s what was missing.”

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