Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the French Open with a left wrist injury on Friday, but insisted the heartbreaking setback did not mean the end of his career.
“It’s not broken, but if I continue to play it will be 100 percent broken in a few days,” said an emotional Nadal, the fourth seed.
“To win the tournament I need five more matches, and the doctor says that’s 100% impossible.”
“This is a very bad position, but that’s life.
“It’s obvious that if it’s not Roland Garros I would not take risks on playing the first two days, but it is the most important event of the year for me so we tried our best.”
Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam title winner, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, affecting his knees and wrist.
A right wrist injury forced him to skip the 2014 US Open.
Despite his latest setback, the charismatic Spaniard said he will keep playing although his participation at Wimbledon next month is now in serious doubt.
“Nine times in my career I have been able to be healthy here in Paris and win this tournament,” he said.
“This is a tough moment and the toughest press conference I have ever had to give but it’s not the end.”
Nadal had coasted through the first two rounds in Paris dropping just nine games but revealed he had needed pain-killing injections in his wrist to take part.
“We took risks yesterday. That’s why we played with an anesthetic injection, so without feeling at all on the wrist,” added Nadal, wearing a bandage on the wrist and appearing close to tears.
Not the end
Nadal explained that the left wrist had been a problem for a number of days.
He underwent an MRI on Friday and “the image showed it was getting worse”.
“Yesterday night I started to feel more and more pain, and today in the morning I felt that I could not move the wrist.”
Nadal has been forced to skip nine Grand Slam tournaments in his career through injury as well as having to sit out the defence of his Olympic title in 2012.
After looking down and out in 2015 when he lost his French Open title and slumped to his lowest ranking in a decade, he had appeared reborn this season.
He captured the Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles to equal Guillermo Vilas’s record of 49 claycourt titles.
The Spaniard had won the 200th Grand Slam match of his career on Thursday — just the eighth man to achieve the feat — when he beat Facundo Bagnis of Argentina.
Nadal, who won the first of his French Open titles as a 19-year-old in 2005, said his latest injury setback was not career threatening.
“It is not the end. I feel myself with the right motivation and the right energy to be back in Roland Garros the next couple of years,” he said.
A winner of 69 titles in his career, Nadal said he remained optimistic of playing at Wimbledon where he has twice been champion.
However, Wimbledon is only a month away.
“We’re gonna work hard to be ready for Wimbledon. For the moment I need a couple of weeks with the wrist in immobilization,” he explained. –
“Then we’re gonna do the treatment, and we hope the treatment works well. We expect to recover quick, to be ready for Wimbledon.
“But it’s not a moment to talk about that. It’s just a moment to go day by day, to work hard. I hope to have a fast recovery.”
Nadal’s withdrawal gives compatriot Marcel Granollers a walkover into the last 16.
It’s also a huge boost to Novak Djokovic’s hopes of lifting a first French Open crown.
Nadal and Djokovic were seeded to meet in the semi-finals next Friday — the date of the Spaniard’s 30th birthday.
His withdrawal also means that this year will be the first since 2003 that neither Nadal nor Roger Federer will feature in the third round of a Grand Slam.
Federer pulled out of Roland Garros before the start of the tournament with a back injury. (AFP)