Rafael Nadal, the Spanish tennis star, announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus in Spain on Monday after returning from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Nadal, a former No. 1 and one of the greatest players in the sport’s long history, shares the men’s record with 20 Grand Slam singles titles. But because he missed most of the second half of the 2021 tennis season because of a chronic problem with his left foot, he played only 29 matches this season.
His positive test, announced Monday, casts doubt on whether he will return to the circuit next month for the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
“I am having some unpleasant moments but am counting on feeling better bit by bit,” he said in a post on Twitter in Spanish on Monday. He added: “As a consequence of the situation, I have to maintain total flexibility with my schedule, and I will analyze my options depending on how my situation evolves.”
Nadal said he had taken a P.C.R. test after returning to Spain from Abu Dhabi and was now confined to his home in Manacor on the Spanish island of Majorca. He said he had informed all those with whom he had been in close contact about his test result, including his wife, his sister, his father, his physical therapist, and two of his coaches, Carlos Moyà and Marc López, according to El País, a Spanish newspaper.
The list of close contacts also presumably included Nadal’s two opponents in the Abu Dhabi exhibition: Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom defeated Nadal.
Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain, attended Nadal’s match with Murray on Friday and met on Saturday with Nadal and Moyà, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
Nadal is the latest tennis star to contract the coronavirus. No. 1 Novak Djokovic tested positive for it in 2020. No. 2 Daniil Medvedev did so earlier this year, as did Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal’s talented 18-year-old Spanish compatriot, who was forced to miss the Davis Cup finals in Madrid this month.
Leading women who have tested positive include No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka; former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu; and Coco Gauff, the rising American 17-year-old who was unvaccinated at the time of her positive test and had to withdraw from the Summer Olympics.
Unlike Djokovic, who has not revealed his vaccination status, Nadal has been an advocate for vaccination and said he would comply with the upcoming Australian Open’s decision to require players to be vaccinated.
“If the people who really know about it say that we need to be vaccinated, who am I to create a different opinion?” he said in Abu Dhabi last week.
Nadal said on Monday that he had taken coronavirus tests “every two days” during his visit to Abu Dhabi and to Kuwait, where he has a tennis academy. “All the tests were negative,” Nadal said. “The last was on Friday, and we got the results on Saturday.”
Nadal, ranked No. 6 after his abbreviated 2021 season, had to withdraw from Wimbledon, the Summer Olympics and United States Open this year because of Müller-Weiss syndrome, a congenital foot condition that first troubled him in his early twenties but which he has long been able to manage with custom insoles and therapy.
This season was a step backward.
“I have been suffering too much with my foot for the last year,” he said in August when announcing his U.S. Open withdrawal.
He returned to Majorca for rest and therapy and underwent a medical procedure in Barcelona. Since returning to the practice court in October, he has gradually increased his training load. The Abu Dhabi event, which features best-of-three-set matches, was his first competition in more than four months.
Even before his positive test for the coronavirus, it was uncertain whether he would participate in next month’s Australian Open.
“Being 100 percent honest, I cannot guarantee it,” he said in Abu Dhabi.
With Nadal very short on match play and confined to his home with the coronavirus, the doubt is quite a bit bigger now.
An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Nadal’s wife. She is María Francisca, not Maribel. Maribel is his sister.