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Rafael Nadal enters Wimbledon on good footing after procedure to relieve pain

Rafael Nadal on Saturday stated the procedure he had on his chronic foot injury after Roland Garros has meant he is largely pain-free, but he is unsure how long the treatment will be effective.

“The feeling and overall feelings are positive, no, because I am in a positive way in terms of pain, and that’s the main thing,” Nadal said.

Nadal has been suffering with Muller-Weiss syndrome, a rare condition which causes chronic pain in his left foot. He numbed the injury at Roland Garros by injecting the nerve to allow him to play.

The injury causes him to be in pain when walking, let alone playing. After Roland Garros, Nadal underwent a radiofrequency nerve ablation, which targets the specific nerve leading to the painful area of his foot.

At the time, Nadal said the success of that procedure would dictate whether he was going to play at Wimbledon, as he was not willing to again undergo daily injections.

If the procedure didn’t work, Nadal said he then would have either required major surgery or would have looked to alternative solutions or outcomes.

However, it has proven effective enough to allow Nadal to keep his charge for a calendar Grand Slam, having already taken the Australian and French Open titles this year.

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“Well, is obvious that if I am here, it’s because things are going better. If not, I would not be here,” Nadal said. “So quite happy about the things, how evolved. I can’t be super happy because I don’t know what can happen.

“First of all, I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue. When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so quite happy about that. And second thing, practicing. I have been in overall better, honestly, no? Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have not one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. Of course, days better; days a little bit worse.”

Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles and is aiming to win his third Wimbledon crown entering Tuesday’s first-round match versus Francisco Cerundolo.

He said he will try to park any thoughts of the foot injury over the next fortnight.

“I can’t tell you if I going to be in that positive moment for one week, for two days, or for three months,” Nadal said. “Of course, the treatment that I did, didn’t fix my injury. Not improving my injury at all but can take out a little bit the pain. That’s the main goal.

“Sometimes the things in the medical world, mathematics is not predictable 100%. But in theory that can help the foot because it’s about the nerve. You touch the nerve, so then the nerves is like asleep in some way for a while, but then recovers. So how long the nerve is going to be that way, I can’t tell you. It’s something that we need to discover.”

But this procedure is a good step, and has brought a smile back to Nadal’s face.

“Today I feel good. Happy for that,” Nadal said. “… Tennis is the second part of your life. Probably the most toughest part is having pain on your life on a daily basis. The problem that I have is I have pain walking every single day. That sometimes affects you to your happiness and in some way the positive and how the attitude is not that positive all the time.

“[It is] positive now. Let’s see what can happen in the future.”

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Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon availability in doubt after retiring injured from Nottingham Open

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu retired injured from her opening match at the WTA 250 event in Nottingham on Tuesday, casting doubt over her participation at Wimbledon.

Raducanu retired while trailing 4-3 in the opening set versus Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, nearly half an hour into the match after she suffered what appeared to be an abdominal or rib injury.

“The first game, I think I pulled something. I am not really sure what exactly happened,” Raducanu stated. “I have just come off court, an absolute freak injury. I don’t know what I could have done more about it.”

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Raducanu, who has been without a full-time coach since April, shot to stardom last September when, as a qualifier, she won the U.S. Open title, becoming Britain’s first female Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade in 1977.

However, the British No. 1 has struggled since winning her maiden Grand Slam and was eliminated in the second round of the French Open last month, when she lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets.

The 19-year-old reached the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2021, but will need a quick recovery to compete at this year’s tournament which will be held from June 27 to July 10.

“I have no idea [about Wimbledon.] It could have just seized up and gone into spasm and then it is really bad for a few days,” Raducanu added. “I have no idea. I cannot diagnose myself. I will get it checked out.”

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Novak Djokovic into Italian Open quarterfinals; Rafael Nadal ousted by Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal struggled with a foot injury toward the end of a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open on Thursday, while rival and top-ranked Novak Djokovic eased his way into the quarterfinals.

At one point, the 35-year-old Nadal walked over and leaned on his towel box and grimaced in apparent pain. He also limped between points.

Nadal missed a large portion of last year with a left foot injury.

“I hurt my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said. “I’m a player living with an injury. It’s nothing new. It’s something that is there, unfortunately. Day by day is difficult.”

It was a worrisome scene for Nadal — especially with the French Open starting in 10 days.

“What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know,” said Nadal, who has won Roland Garros a record 13 times. “What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal returned to the tour last week following a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks after a blistering start to the year that involved his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

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“It’s difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes,” Nadal said. “Can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”

Nadal was also defeated by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of last week’s Madrid Open.

Nadal double-faulted twice, then missed a backhand long to hand Shapovalov a break of his serve and the second set. Shapovalov then took complete control when he won 14 consecutive points late in the third.

Nadal stated his foot started hurting midway through the second set, adding: “Then [it] wasn’t playable for me.”

Djokovic was untroubled in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Stan Wawrinka, who was playing only his second tournament after undergoing two surgeries on his left foot.

Djokovic, a five-time champion in Rome, will next play Felix Auger-Aliassime, who ended the run of American qualifier Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph. It will be the first meeting between Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime.

The loudest cheers of the day were for Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who beat Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (6) to reach the quarterfinals for the first time at his home tournament.

Sinner will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who rallied past Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 for a tour-leading 29th victory of the year.

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Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams to open 2022 season; Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football

The NFL will open its new season where the last one kicked off — in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, as the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Sept. 8, the teams revealed.

The Bills-Rams matchup features elite quarterback play between Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen, who has guided the Bills to back-to-back playoff appearances. This game highlights a challenging calendar for the Rams, whose opponents have the league’s highest winning percentage from last year (56.7%). NBC will broadcast the game.

The Monday Night Football opener offers a spicy storyline

Russell Wilson making his Denver Broncos debut against his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Lumen Field.

Wilson guided the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances and nine winning seasons over 10 years. Seattle traded Wilson to Denver in March for multiple draft picks and veteran players.

Other key Week 1 matchups include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, a rematch of last season’s Thursday night opener; the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Las Vegas Raiders, reigniting a dramatic 2021 regular season finale with playoff implications; the Cincinnati Bengals at the Pittsburgh Steelers, a clash of fierce AFC North rivals; and the Kansas City Chiefs making the trip west to play the Arizona Cardinals, two high-powered offenses in the desert.

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The Buccaneers will face serious firepower in the first month of the campaign, with a Sept. 25 home opener versus the Green Bay Packers and a clash with the Chiefs the following week.

Other Week 1 matchups include the Jacksonville Jaguars, with new coach Doug Pederson, at the Washington Commanders, with new quarterback Carson Wentz. Pederson coached Wentz in Philadelphia and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, although Nick Foles was behind center with Wentz injured.

Several key division matchups, meanwhile, are also on tap for Sept. 11: the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, and the Packers at Minnesota Vikings.

Also, it will be the Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears, Eagles at Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, and New York Giants at Tennessee Titans.

NFL teams started releasing information on their home openers a few hours before the 8 p.m. league-wide schedule reveal.

Teams have known their opponents since the end of last season, but the NFL builds drama around the schedule release, announcing the order, kickoff times and broadcast networks for all 272 games on one night each May.

This will be the second NFL season that follows a 17-game schedule, as agreed upon by the NFL and players union during recent labor negotiations.

The regular season runs through Jan. 8, with the Super Bowl set for kickoff Feb. 12.

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Rafael Nadal bounces back with win over John Isner at Italian Open

Once is enough when it comes to beating Rafael Nadal on a clay court.

Throughout his career, Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on his favorite surface and the Spaniard extended that perfect record Wednesday by defeating John Isner 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round of the Italian Open.

Nadal was coming off a loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week. After a first-round bye, he improved to 44-0 in matches on clay following a loss on the surface.

Perhaps more importantly, Nadal regained some confidence as he works his way back from a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks before the tournament in Madrid.

While he would clearly love to add to his record total of 10 Italian Open titles, Nadal’s bigger objective is regaining his top form in time for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks. Nadal has won 13 of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.

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When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls. He explained that he’s a “bit in a rush” to find his best form “as soon as possible.”

“I need to work as much as I can,” Nadal said. “The match today was not that demanding physically.”

It was essentially decided during one brief stretch.

Nadal struggled on his serve at 3-3 in the first set, missing a forehand into the net then double-faulting to set up break points for Isner. But the American made unforced errors on both of his break-point chances and Nadal eventually held.

In the following game, Nadal broke Isner’s serve when the 6-foot-10 American missed a comfortable forehand volley into the net. Nadal then held at love to close out the first set and broke Isner’s serve in the opening game of the second.

“I finished better than I started — without a doubt,” Nadal said. “He had some chances on the returns. I was in his hands in that moment. Lucky that he missed those shots.”

Nadal improved to 19-0 versus Americans on clay, having been forced to a deciding set only twice — both times by Isner, who pushed Nadal to five sets at the 2011 French Open and three sets at the 2015 Monte Carlo Masters.

Up next, Nadal meets Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian he beat at the same stage last year in a grueling three-set comeback triumph in which the Spaniard saved two match points.

“Super lucky,” Nadal said, reflecting back to playing Shapovalov last year. “I know how dangerous he is. I need to play better than today.”

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Casper Ruud defeats Alex Molcan to reach BMW Open quarterfinals

Casper Ruud took his time finding his rhythm as he beat Alex Molcan 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals at the BMW Open on Thursday.

Molcan built a 4-0 lead in the first set as Ruud struggled with his serve, but the clay-court specialist fought his way back and broke Molcan at 4-4 in the decider before serving out the match.

“It was not the best start for me, but I was able to find my rhythm a little more as the match went on,” Ruud said. “[Molcan is] a tough player, and good confidence for me to get these types of wins.”

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The 23-year-old Ruud stated he was especially pleased to be playing well at the comparatively high altitude of Munich as preparation for similar conditions at the Madrid Open next week.

It was Ruud’s opening match in Munich after getting a first-round bye.

At a career-high No. 7, the Norwegian is the highest-ranked player left in the draw after Alexander Zverev’s surprise loss to 18-year-old Holger Rune on Wednesday.

Ruud will face eighth-seeded Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarterfinals after the Dutch player defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-2, 6-3.

Germany’s Oscar Otte managed the surprise of the day by beating Reilly Opelka of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-2. Opelka had two set points in the first set, but Otte saved them both before taking the set to a tiebreaker.

Otte’s quarterfinal opponent is Alejandro Tabilo, who was leading 6-2, 2-6, 4-1 when Hugo Gaston retired from their second-round match. Otte cruised past Tabilo 6-0, 6-3 when they played last week at the Serbia Open.

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Andrey Rublev beats Novak Djokovic to win Serbia Open title

Andrey Rublev defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0 to collect the Serbia Open on Sunday for his third title of the season.

The second-seeded Russian player dug deep to stop Djokovic from mounting another comeback as he prevented the top-ranked Serb from claiming his first title of 2022.

The 24-year-old Rublev looked fitter in their third set as he closed out the win in 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Djokovic — who is 10 years older than Rublev — appeared affected by the effort he put in to level the match in the second-set tiebreaker.

Djokovic had already come back from a set down in each of his three matches at his hometown tournament, defeating Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov on his way to the final in what were only his fifth, sixth and seventh matches of the year.

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion opened his clay-court season with a surprising loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Monte Carlo Masters the previous week, his first match since being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships in February.

Dubai was his first tournament of the year after he was barred from playing at the Australian Open because of his unvaccinated status, which also prevented him from playing tournaments in the United States last month.

Rublev, who dropped only one set as he eliminated Jiri Lehecka, Taro Daniel and Fabio Fognini on his way to the final, has now equaled Rafael Nadal’s mark of three tour-level titles in 2022, after victories in Marseille and Dubai in February.

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Aaron Judge to receive extension offer from New York Yankees, ‘pencils down’ by Opening Day, GM Brian Cashman says

New York Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge will soon get a proposal for a long-term contract extension, general manager Brian Cashman stated Saturday.

“Between now and opening day we’ll make an offer and he’ll obviously receive an offer and all the conversions will have taken place and will either resolve into a multiyear deal or it won’t,” Cashman said.

“We’re committed. We’ll make an offer and hear what he has to say in response and then it will be pencils down before opening day,” he said.

The Yankees open on April 7 at home versus the Boston Red Sox.

Judge said Saturday he was “pretty sure” he doesn’t want to negotiate a new contract during the regular season. The outfielder, who turns 30 next month, is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.

“We haven’t decided yet, but for right now that’s what we’ve got,” Judge said. “I want to be here. Get a chance to play here for quite a few more years, that would be great. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not too worried.”

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The Yankees and Judge so far have failed to reach a deal for 2022, which could result in the two sides heading into arbitration during the season. He asked for a raise from $10,175,000 to $21 million, and the Yankees offered $17 million.

“Our position has always been, we wind up only in a hearing if we’re dragged there,” Cashman said. “We only go when forced to go. We’re not afraid of going. Our history shows that we stay out of that arena unless we’re compelled to get there. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Judge, who hit .287 with 39 homers and 98 RBI in 148 games last season, hopes an agreement can be reached to avoid arbitration.

“Go back and forth until we, maybe, can settle on something before the court date and if not, we’ll see each other in court,” Judge said.

Judge said the contract talk isn’t a distraction. “Not really, I’m a baseball player,” he said.

“I’m going to come out and do my usual on the field. I’ve got people that are going to worry about the other stuff for me and put me in the right position and give me the right answers. If I take care of what I’ve got to do on the field, everything is going to workout.”

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Novak Djokovic in BNP Paribas Open draw, but ‘it has not been determined if he will participate’

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic was announced in the draw for the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday, despite his status to enter the United States still unclear due to being unvaccinated.

“Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today,” the California tournament said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are currently in communication with his team; however, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC approval to enter the country.”

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It’s the latest setback for Djokovic, the 20-time major champion, in what has become a tumultuous 2022.

He was deported from Australia in January after initially receiving a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government.

He has since played in just one tournament — a quarterfinal appearance in Dubai — and it stays unclear how many events he will be able to play as a result of his unvaccinated status. He was recently ousted from the No. 1 ranking by Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic told the BBC he would be willing to skip majors in the future if a vaccine was required.

“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said in February.

Djokovic publicly stated his desire to play at the Masters 1000-level event in Indian Wells, California but said in Dubai last month he wasn’t sure if he would be able to enter the country. He has yet to provide a further update.

The men’s main draw gets underway on Thursday and seeded players receive a first-round bye. Djokovic is currently scheduled to play the winner of the opening-round match between Jordan Thompson and David Goffin in a second-round match on Saturday or Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic on entry list for BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is on the entry list for the BNP Paribas Open in California, where the Serb would face a vaccine mandate.

Djokovic, who was unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of last month, was detained and eventually deported from Australia for failing to meet that country’s strict vaccination requirements. It prevented him from defending his Australian Open title last month.

To enter Australia, Djokovic submitted a positive test issued in Serbia on Dec. 16 for a visa exemption on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the virus. But the Australian government canceled his visa and deported him.

Neither the ATP nor WTA tours require players to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, non-U.S. citizens must be fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S. by plane, according to the CDC. U.S. citizens, permanent residents and those traveling on an immigration visa, if not fully vaccinated, are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the U.S. by air. Limited exceptions apply.

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Djokovic is a five-time champion at Indian Wells, where he hasn’t played since 2019. He hasn’t played a game since November at the Davis Cup in Madrid.

Djokovic is calendared to play a tournament in Dubai later this month.

Fans attending Indian Wells from March 7-20 are required to show valid proof of full vaccination.

Australian Open winners Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty head the list of entries released Wednesday.

Three-time winner Nadal returns to the desert for the first time since 2019. He missed last year’s event that was moved to October because of a foot injury. He won his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Australia.

Joining Nadal in the men’s draw are Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and defending champion Cameron Norrie.

Top-ranked Barty already has two titles this year.

She’s joined in the women’s draw by defending champion Paula Badosa, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova, No. 4 Karolina Pliskova and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins. Teenagers Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff return for their second appearances in the desert.

The remaining spots in the draw will be filled by winners of the qualifying and wild-card recipients.

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