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Rafael Nadal in a race to be fit for the French Open

Rafael Nadal in a race to be fit for the French Open

21-time Grand Slam tennis champion Rafael Nadal admits he doesn't know how long he "can keep going", after he limped out of the Italian Open.

The first set was typical Nadal - quick, aggressive from the backcourt and dominant in every metric.

The remaining sets were anything but this.

An obvious limp between points and visibly grimacing between changeovers, Nadal was every bit the gladiator on his shield.

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His opponent, Denis Shapovalov, has the tools to bother Nadal on a good day, let alone in these circumstances.

But this was far from the all-dominating Nadal, with his chronic left foot problem, known as MΓΌller-Weiss disease, resurfacing on his favorite surface.

Shapovalov progressing to the quarter-finals without breaking much of a final-set sweat.

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Speaking in the aftermath, an unusually downtrodden Nadal spoke very pensively.

"I imagine there will come a time when my head will say β€˜enough," he said.

"Pain takes away your happiness, not only in tennis but in life.

"My problem is that many days I live with too much pain."

Nadal went on to describe his recurring foot injury an "unbearable" in the match, but insists he'll be fit for the French Open.

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