Rafael Nadal struck with a big injury blow to give Novak Djokovic the French Open lead | Tennis | sport

Rafael Nadal has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his ribs which is expected to put him out of action for four to six weeks. The news will increase Novak Djokovic’s chances of winning at Roland Garros – a happy hunting ground for Nadal during his career.

Nadal was beaten at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday as 20th seeded American Taylor Fritz prevailed 6-3 7-5 (5). The 21-time Grand Slam winner had ruled out Dan Evans, Carlos Alcaraz and Nick Kyrgios en route to the final which ultimately ended in disappointment.

It was the 35-year-old’s first defeat in 20 appearances this season, and he complained of breathing difficulties during the defeat. By knocking down his legendary opponent, Fritz became the first American to triumph at Indian Wells in more than two decades.

After losing in California, Nadal told reporters: “I have trouble breathing. When I try to breathe, it’s painful and very uncomfortable.

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“I don’t know if it’s something in the ribs. When I breathe, when I move, it’s like a needle all the time inside here. I’m a little dizzy because it’s painful. It’s a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It’s not just a matter of pain, I don’t feel very well because it affects my breathing.”

With the dust now settled, Marca claim Nadal’s doctor, Angel Ruiz Cotorro, has diagnosed him with a stress fracture of his ribs. The injury is believed to have occurred during his semi-final win over teenage sensation Alcaraz.

Novak Djokovic will likely have a lot more time to get fit and fight while one of his main rivals rests away from the pitch. The Serb will view the tournament as a great opportunity to bounce back onto the Grand Slam stage after being sent off on the eve of the Australian Open earlier this year due to Covid vaccination concerns.

Nadal has generally reigned supreme over his clay-court peers, but the Serb has inflicted two of the Spaniard’s three career defeats at his favorite major tournament. The most recent triumph came last year when Djokovic bounced back from a set down to win his semi-final clash in four.

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