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Nadal 'Feels Great' despite Practice Partner's Wimbledon Exit

Nadal 'Feels Great' despite Practice Partner's Wimbledon Exit

Wednesday, 29 June, 2022 - 04:45
Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 28, 2022 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his first round match against Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo REUTERS/Toby Melville

Rafael Nadal said he "feels great" even though Wimbledon practice partner and 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini withdrew from the tournament with Covid on Tuesday.

Italy's Berrettini, widely regarded as one of defending champion Novak Djokovic's biggest threats and a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal, said he was "heartbroken" to pull out.

He joined 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic, who also tested positive before his first-round match, in withdrawing.

French player Alize Cornet added to questions over the health protocols in tennis by saying there had been an "epidemic of Covid" at the recent French Open but "nobody talked about it".

Nadal practiced with Berrettini at Wimbledon last week but the Spanish star shrugged off any concerns over his health.

"It's difficult to be a close contact when you are outside, when you are practicing," AFP quoted Nadal as saying.

"For the moment I am feeling great, no problems at all. The main thing is I feel very sorry for him because he was playing fantastic, winning two tournaments before the tournament starts."

The All England Club said in a statement that protocols remained in place to minimize the risk of infection.

"We are following UK guidance around assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease," the statement said.

"Our player medical team also continue to wear face masks for any consultation."

Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic while the 2021 edition was run at reduced capacity with players confined to a bubble.

Cornet claimed that at Roland Garros earlier this month there had been an "epidemic" of coronavirus.

"In the locker room, everyone had it and we said nothing," said Cornet. "I saw girls wearing masks, perhaps because they knew and did not want to pass it on."

Hours later, Cornet rowed back on her claims, writing on social media that she only "suspected a few cases of Covid during Roland Garros, without having any proof".

"It was above all to emphasize that the virus was now part of our lives and that we had to deal with it," she said.

Nadal said he had been told by a physio from the ATP men's tour that it was up to players to decide whether they tested or not.

"Now if you tell me even if you are positive, you can keep playing, this is something I didn't know. The only thing I used to know is up to you, even if you feel bad, if you want to be tested or not."

Nadal was speaking after overcoming a scare in his Wimbledon opener, fighting back from dropping the third set and falling a break down in the fourth to eventually see off Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo.

The second seed, playing on grass for the first time since his 2019 Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer, triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 over 41st-ranked Cerundolo, who was making his All England Club debut.

But the 36-year-old Spaniard, who has already captured the Australian and French Opens this year to stand halfway to the first men's calendar Slam since 1969, did it the hard way.

After coasting through the first two sets on Centre Court, he surrendered an early break in the third set and then had to claw his way back from 3-1 and 4-2 down in the fourth.

"Three years without being here on this amazing surface, it is amazing to be back," said Nadal.

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion, arrived at the tournament with question marks over his durability for the two weeks having played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anesthetized.

He has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot.

Nadal will take on Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania for a place in the last 32.

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