Rafael Nadal has been a player to beat this season. The Spaniard secured 30 victories from 33 encounters, and 14 of those came at Majors. Rafa conquered the Australian Open and Roland Garros for the first time in a single season, leading the ATP Race by a comfortable margin. No one could predict that a year ago, as Rafa struggled with a foot injury and skipped almost the entire second part of the season. Nadal felt a sharp pain in his left foot in the Roland Garros semi-final against Novak Djokovic, having nothing left in the tank in the fourth set and struggling to walk in the following days. Nadal decided to skip Wimbledon and the Olympic Games to rest his foot, and he made a comeback in Washington in August, entering the ATP 500 event for the first time.
Rafa decided to join the Washington field and test his foot for the first time since June. Nadal debuted in the second round against Jack Sock and pushed his foot in a three-hour win. The Spaniard prevailed in the deciding tie break for his first victory in over a month and a half. Nadal stepped on the court against Lloyd Harris in the third round and suffered a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 defeat in two hours and ten minutes. The Spaniard did not play badly, but it was not enough to carry him home after losing ground in the pivotal moments. Harris had 16 aces and saved four out of six break chances. Nadal played against three break opportunities and experienced one loose service game in sets one and three to end his run.
Rafael Nadal struggled with a foot injury in the second part of 2021.
Rafa had 26 winners and 11 unforced errors, while Lloyd counted 38 winners and 21 mistakes, playing aggressive tennis and doing everything right when it mattered the most. After that, Nadal withdrew from Toronto and ended his season, with no point in stressing his foot even more. Nadal underwent a minor procedure on his foot in Barcelona in September, and he returned to action at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi in December. Speaking about his previous months, Rafa admitted his body was in terrible shape in Washington, with clear signals to slow down and take some rest.
“I need time to recover fully; it’s been a long time. My body was in terrible condition in those two matches in Washington, and the entire post-Roland Garros period was a disaster. My foot would not allow me to practice or play the right way. It’s been six months since my last proper official match. The main thing is to be healthy enough to do what I need to,” Rafael Nadal said.