Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam title collection stands at 22 but if it wasn’t for a succession of problems with his ankles, knees, elbow, wrists and now his hip, the figure would have been even more impressive.

In his career, which has stretched over 20 years, the Spaniard has missed 11 Grand Slams and withdrew mid-tournament at the majors five times.

Now a hip injury, suffered at the Australian Open in January, has placed the 36-year-old’s future in serious jeopardy.

“We find ourselves in a difficult situation,” said Nadal on Thursday after announcing he was withdrawing from the Madrid Masters, a key warm-up ahead of the French Open which starts in a little over five weeks’ time.

“In principle it was supposed to be a recovery period of six to eight weeks and now we’re around 14.”

He added: “The reality is that the situation is not what we would have hoped for.”

When Nadal claimed a 14th French Open by thrashing Casper Ruud in the 2022 final at Roland Garros, he revealed he had required daily pain-killing injections in his foot to see out the two-week event.

He then underwent a radical surgical procedure, having the nerves burned in his foot to eradicate the pain.

Nadal then swept into the Wimbledon semi-finals but an eagerly-anticipated showdown with Nick Kyrgios was shelved after the Spaniard failed to recover from an abdominal strain.

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open where he was hampered by a hip injury during his shock second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald.

It was his earliest exit from a Slam since 2016. He has been out of action since, even seeing his proud record of 18 unbroken years as a top-10 player end in March.

His wife Mery was in tears in the Melbourne crowd while his coaching team could hardly dare to look.

For Nadal, it was familiar territory.

A left foot problem caused him to miss Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 and Nadal did not return until the build-up to the 2022 Australian Open, which he went on to win for the second time, 13 years after his first.

But after losing to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final, the Spaniard had to skip the start of the clay-court season in Monte Carlo and Barcelona with a rib stress fracture.

He has already missed those two events again in 2023.

‘Can’t give deadlines’

Many pundits consistently predicted Nadal would struggle to enjoy a long career due to his gruelling style of play but he proved them wrong time and again.

Nadal’s first injury-enforced absence from the ATP Tour came as a 16-year-old in 2003 when he hurt his elbow in a fall during training and had to miss the French Open.

He has been forced to sit out at least one tournament in every year of his career.

Nadal even played briefly with bandaged fingers after burning himself accidentally at a restaurant in 2011, while he also missed the end of the 2014 season due to appendicitis.

Despite missing so many events, Nadal’s will to win has seen him lift 92 titles and win 1,068 matches on tour.

“It hurts as always,” said Nadal after his defeat to McDonald in Australia.

“But in the end, the glass is getting fuller,” he added in Spanish, a phrase that means getting fed up or reaching your limit.

“I’ve never been in a position to complain, life has given me so many positive things that I have no right to complain.”

On Thursday, he added ruefully: “I can’t give deadlines because if I knew I would tell you, but I don’t know.”