Rafael Nadal’s injury-plagued season is all but over after the Spanish tennis legend underwent surgery on a hip muscle that is expected to keep him out of action for five months.
The 14-time French Open winner, who has won a combined record 22 men’s majors, has been out of action since January after suffering a hip flexor injury in a second-round loss at the Australian Open.
“Rafa will begin his progressive functional rehabilitation in a few hours,” Nadal’s representative Benito Perez-Barbadillo said in a statement on Saturday.
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“The normal recovery process is estimated to take five months, always considering the biological times of this structure.”
Nadal celebrated his 37th birthday in hospital on Saturday and not at the French Open, where his presence was sorely missed by fans at Roland Garros this year.
“Thank you for all the support you have shown me and continue to show me on a daily basis,” he wrote.
“Today and on my birthday it’s not the place I awaited or the place I dreamed of, but that’s life.”
Nadal, who added that the surgery also repaired an existing left hip injury, previously said 2024 will likely be his last year as a professional player.
His doctor, Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, said he expected him to make a comeback.
“I expect Rafa to make a full recovery in the necessary time or maybe even faster,” said Ruiz-Cotorro.
“It will depend on the development. There are different processes involved in this injury.
“It’s a bit of a break for now, but we’ll start rehabilitation and after six weeks we’ll see what happens… and then of course he’ll start playing tennis very slowly.”
It was originally expected that Nadal would be out of action for eight weeks following the injury, but the injury ultimately decimated his season.
The recovery schedule confirms he will miss the US Open and, without the results behind him, the ATP Finals for the top eight players of the year.
In March, Nadal fell out of the top 10 for the first time since 2005 and is now in 15th place.
The uproar in his tennis career came after he became a father late last year and his wife Mery Perello gave birth to a baby boy.
The family of three traveled to the Australian Open together in January.