The Spaniard started the match strongly, taking the opening set 6-1. He fought hard in the second set but Shapovalov took it 7-5 to level proceedings. By the time a few games were played in the decider, Nadal looked a bit uncomfortable.
He was unable to move freely, and it was clear that his foot was bothering him. The Spaniard eventually lost the match and said in his press conference that he was battling foot pain.
"I am not injured; I am a player living with an injury," said Nadal. "It's something that is there, and unfortunately, my day by day is difficult, honestly. It's difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes."
Nadal has a degenerative condition in his foot called Mueller-Weiss syndrome. That is something he has been experiencing since the start of his career.
What is the degenerative condition Rafael Nadal suffers from?
Mueller-Weiss syndrome is a rare, degenerative disease where the navicular bone (located in the mid-foot region) undergoes spontaneous osteonecrosis in adults. This causes blood to be cut off from the navicular bone, subsequently causing pain and deformity in the mid-foot and hindfoot regions.
As a result of the syndrome, Nadal suffers from chronic pain in his foot. That was the reason why he ended his 2021 season after Roland Garros.
Nadal underwent surgery last year in a bid to continue playing. However, that doesn't mean he won't feel the effects of the Mueller-Weiss syndrome. The 35-year-old will suffer from occasional pain and flare-ups, with one such incident possibly appearing in Rome on Thursday.
Rafael Nadal's 2022 campaign
Rafael Nadal had a great start to his 2022 campaign, winning the Australian Open, the Mexican Open and the Melbourne Summer Set. The Spaniard could not compete at the Monte-Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open due to a rib stress fracture he suffered at the Indian Wells Masters. There, he suffered his first loss of the season in 21 matches against Taylor Fritz in the final.
He returned to action in Madrid, where he lost to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals. Nadal's foot injury prevented him from playing close to his best against Shapovalov in Rome. It remains to be seen if the pain dies down in time for him to compete at Roland Garros, which is only a few days away.
Rafael Nadal said that he is looking to compete in Paris and will have his doctor with him during the tournament.
"Still the goal, in one week and a couple of days. I'll still keep dreaming. "Maybe in two days, things are better, the things that I have on my foot. It's true that during Roland Garros, I'm going to have my doctor with me - that sometimes helps."
Nadal is seeking a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros this year. He has lost only three of his 108 matches across almost two decades in Paris.