“I don’t know what can happen in the future but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going,” he said as the sellout crowd of 15,000, clearly well aware of the speculation, roared its approval. But there are no guarantees, as Nadal later made clear at a news conference as he explained that he did not intend to continue playing tournaments with regular painkilling injections or with a numb foot.
“Everybody knows how much this tournament means to me,” he said. “That was the only way to give myself a chance here, no? So I did it. And I can’t be happier and I can’t thank enough my doctor for all the things he did during all my tennis career, helping me in every tough moment. But it’s obvious that I can’t keep competing with the foot asleep.”
In search of a longer-term solution, Nadal said he would undergo a procedure later this week known as radio frequency ablation, in which radio waves will be sent through a hollow needle inserted into the nerves in his left foot that are causing his constant pain. If the procedure works, which is far from certain, the heat from the radio waves could prevent the nerves from sending pain signals to Nadal’s brain.
“If that works, I’m going to keep going; If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story,” said Nadal, who ruled out taking more painkilling injections to play Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks.
Nadal said if the treatment was ineffective, he would have to ask himself hard questions about his future in the game and whether he wanted to risk foot surgery, which he has been told could impact his mobility “to be competitive again” and could “take a long time” to recover from.
“So let’s do step by step, as I did all my tennis career,” he said of the decision-making process, declining to rule out playing at Wimbledon.
He certainly looked ready for more tennis against Ruud, picking up speed and precision as the match progressed. Nadal was not at his best early and was at times far from his top form, losing his serve in the third game with two double faults and an off-rhythm forehand unforced error into the middle of the net. But Ruud was also struggling to find his way, looking edgy and restricted on the pivotal points in the opening set and then getting outplayed on the pivotal points in the later stages after he had worked through his nerves.