Crushing injuries: Matildas captain faces long layoff, Nadal career in doubt

Australia's captain Sam Kerr faces a long period on the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury.

Australia's captain Sam Kerr faces a long period on the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury. Photo: AAP

Matildas captain Sam Kerr has suffered a ‘devastating ACL injury’ and is unlikely to play at the summer Olympics if Australia qualify, while Rafael Nadal’s illustrious tennis career may be over after he was forced out of the Australian Open with a hip injury.

Australia’s star striker Kerr suffered the injury during Chelsea’s warm weather training camp in Morocco, the English Women’s Super League club has said.

It will almost certainly rule the 30-year-old out of the Paris Olympics should Australia qualify as expected.

The news was described as “devastating” by Matildas manager Tony Gustavsson.

“Considering how hard Sam has worked over the past six months to return to play, this news is a devastating blow for everyone,” Gustavsson said.

“With her ability to lead by example, Sam’s guidance and influence on the team is significant and, as a result, this will be an incredible loss for the national team.

“Our focus now is on ensuring she has all the support she wants and needs to navigate recovery and rehab,” Gustavsson concluded.

Kerr has already been ruled out of the second half of Chelsea’s WSL and European Champions League campaigns, and Australia’s AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers Round 3 series against Uzbekistan next month.

The World Cup semi-finalists need only to win that two-leg tie – against a team ranked 47th in the world, 35 places below the Matildas – to qualify for Paris.

The Games soccer tournament takes place from 24 July – 10 August, but it is rare for a player to return from an ACL injury with less than nine months rehabilitation, and it often takes longer.

Kerr is the latest leading women’s player to suffer the injury, which seems more prevalent in the women’s game and is belatedly the subject of research into why this is.

Ellie Carpenter was out for eight months after injuring her ACL in the 2022 Champions League final. Photo: AAP

Ellie Carpenter, Kyah Simon, Chloe Logarzo and Elise Kellond-Knight are among Australian players to have suffered ACL injuries in recent years.

England’s Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, Vivianne Miedema of the Netherlands and France’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto were among a string of stars to miss the World Cup while Spain’s Alexia Putellas had only just returned to playing and is still to regain her former ability.

Kerr, runner-up to Spain’s Aitana Bonmati at the Ballon d’Or awards last year, is Australia’s record goalscorer with 69 in 128 matches.

Chelsea said she “will be assessed by a specialist in the coming days and then begin her rehabilitation with the club’s medical team”.

Kerr has scored 99 goals in 128 games for the club, winning the WSL Golden Boot twice, four league titles and three FA Cups – scoring in each final, but is out of contract this summer.

She was recently joined in London by her partner, American player Kristie Mewis, who joined WSL rivals West Ham United.

Nadal’s tennis career in doubt

In a devastating blow for fans and officials, Nadal revealed on social media on Sunday night he was flying home to Spain to see his doctor.

The 22-time grand slam champion had hip surgery in June and hadn’t played since last year’s Australian Open until returning at the season-opening Brisbane International.

Nadal’s withdrawal will inevitably raise concerns over the 37-year-old former world No.1’s ability – and desire – to return to the sport.

He didn’t play a match for almost a year and has already battled on for almost a decade longer than many expected.

After winning his first slam as a teenager, Nadal endured endless knee injuries that most thought would end his career before the age of 30.

The warrior’s latest setback comes after an initially impressive return to the court, with Nadal looking ominous in first and second-round wins before he was physically tested in a three-and-a-half hour battle with Australian Jordan Thompson that finished late on Friday night.

Nadal, who had three match points in that clash, suffered his injury in the defeat.

Rafael Nadal of Spain reflects between games in his quarter-final match against Jordan Thompson. Photo: AAP

He received treatment and finished the match before disclosing his fears, given the pain was in the region of the hip that he chose to have operated on to continue his career.

Nadal had been watering down expectations but his level of play had inspired discussion that he could challenge 24-time major winner Novak Djokovic in Melbourne later this month.

“I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in three months,” he wrote.

“Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.

“I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive.

“Thanks all for the support and see you soon.”


Topics: nadal
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