Rafael Nadal has Covid
Rafael Nadal has Covid Image Credit: AP

Rafael Nadal said he is “having some unpleasant moments” after testing positive for coronavirus after playing in an exhibition tournament last week in Abu Dhabi, a diagnosis that complicates the tennis champion’s return to the sport from a nagging foot injury.

A PCR test delivered the result when Nadal returned home to his native Spain, he announced on social media Monday, and the news further muddles his plans for a comeback from injury by playing in the Australian Open, which is scheduled to begin on January 17 in Melbourne.

“I am having some unpleasant moments, but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me,” he said, according to a Google translation of the tweets he posted in Spanish.

“As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options depending on my evolution. I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments! Thank you all in advance for your support and understanding.”

Nadal, the world’s sixth-ranked player, added that he had “passed controls every two days [during the tournament] and all were negative, the last being on Friday and having the results on Saturday.”

Because of his foot injury, Nadal’s appearance in the Abu Dhabi event was his first since the Citi Open in Washington last summer, and he lost close matches to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov. Nadal, who is tied with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with 20 career Grand Slam singles titles, has not yet committed to playing in the Australian Open but is on the entry list.

Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery, will not play in Melbourne, and the status of Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked player, is uncertain because of Australia’s coronavirus vaccination rules, although he is on the Australian Open entry list and has been named to the Serbian team that will compete in the ATP Cup in Sydney in early January. He has not revealed whether he is vaccinated.

Vaccination was not an issue for Nadal, who said in a November interview with Marca, a Spanish newspaper, that he understood “that there are people who do not want to be vaccinated, but it seems a bit selfish to me. We have suffered a lot.”

After losing to Djokovic in a French Open semi-final last year and pulling out of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Tokyo Olympics because of his foot injury, Nadal was hoping to return in Australia but offered no promises even before learning of his positive test as the Omicron variant continues to spread worldwide.

“The idea is to go there and try my best there in Australia,” the 35-year-old said in a news conference in Abu Dhabi. “Being 100 per cent honest, I can’t guarantee it. I need to speak with my team. It’s more than six months since the last real official match. Things are difficult, and I accept that.

“I was able to compete in both matches [in Abu Dhabi] and even had my chances, so if we put that in perspective it’s a very positive thing. I went through this process, unfortunately, a lot of times in my tennis career, but I need to practice and I need to be healthy enough to go through this process. If that happens, I’m confident that I will be back.”