Tennis - Wimbledon Preview - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 22, 2022 Mallorca's Rafael Nadal during practice REUTERS/Paul Childs | PAUL CHILDS

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When Wimbledon rolls out the lush green carpet to welcome Rafael Nadal at the championships for the first time in three years next week, it will be the Mallorcan's foot, rather than his formidable forehand, that will be scrutinised to the nth degree.

Until a few days ago, very few people had even heard of 'radiofrequency ablation treatment' - a procedure which uses heat on the nerve to quell long-term pain.

But it is thanks to that procedure, which the 36-year-old had earlier this month to treat a degenerative condition that affects the bones in his feet, that he is able to turn up at the All England Club ready to target Grand Slam title number 23.

When Nadal rocked up at the Australian Open in January, he had not won a major for 15 months, had been out of action for five months due to his chronic foot pain and admitted that he had considered giving it all up for good.

Even in Nadal's wildest dreams, it is unlikely that the Mallorcan could have imagined the sequence of events that would unfold over the following six months.

Despite being troubled on a day-to-day basis by the intense pain and discomfort in his feet, his super-human body somehow managed to carry him through 50 incredible sets at the Australian and French Opens to take his overall slam haul to a men's record 22 - including an eye-popping 14 titles at Roland Garros.

"In general, it's just unbelievable what Rafa has achieved," Nadal's great rival Roger Federer, the holder of 20 majors, told Tages-Anzeiger.

"The record of Pete Sampras, which I beat, was 14 Grand Slam titles. Now Rafa won the French Open 14 times. That's unbelievable. He keeps raising the bar. It's gigantic."

Thanks to that unexpected run of success, Nadal arrives at Wimbledon halfway through a calendar-year Grand Slam - a position he has never been in before.

While the sporting world will be willing him to win the third leg of the calendar slam -- a feat that was last achieved in 1969 by Rod Laver -- the modest Mallorcan crusader is not driven by records or numbers.

"It's not about being the best of the history. It's not about the records," the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion said recently."It's about: I like what I do. I like to play tennis. And I like the competition.

"What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, to live moments that stay inside me forever... and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums."

During the French Open, there was a lingering fear that every match Nadal played at Roland Garros could be his last.
With age no longer on his side and the medical interventions required just to keep going getting more and more frequent, that sense of the finishing line to his career approaching quickly is unlikely to go away.

A lot of things about Nadal's Wimbledon prospects remain uncertain. Will he last the distance on the slick surface that has been the most punishing for his body? Will he face great rival Novak Djokovic in the July 10 final? Will he be able to leave Wimbledon with his hopes of completing the calendar Grand Slam still intact?

Amid all of those unknown factors, the one thing that is certain is the fans who will turn up in their thousands will cherish every second of the fist-pumping action he provides on court -- after all no one knows if this will be his final hurrah on the most famous stage in tennis.

Serena Williams' eagerly-awaited return to Wimbledon will begin in the first round against France's Harmony Tan as the 23-times Grand slam champion resumes singles action after a year out next week.

The 40-year-old American, avoided any of the big names in Friday's draw and will get the chance to ease into the tournament against world number 113 Tan as she targets an unlikely eighth title.

Wildcard Williams, notionally ranked down at 1,204, has not played a singles match since retiring injured and in tears in the first round a year ago against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Men's top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, chasing a 21st Grand Slam title after a troubled year, will open his campaign against South Korea's Kwon Soon-woo.
Second seed Rafa Nadal, who is half way to a calendar year Grand Slam, plays Argentina's world number 42 Francisco Cerundolo in the first round while compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, the man predicted to one day fill Nadal's shoes, takes on Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff.

Women's top seed Iga Swiatek, who is on a 35-match winning run, opens against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett while second seed Anett Kontaveit takes on American Bernarda Pera.
American teenager Coco Gauff, who reached the French Open final and is seeded 11th, plays Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Britain's U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, who will hog the spotlight among the home contingent, faces a tricky opener against experienced Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.
Raducanu, 19, has struggled since her incredible run in New York and has been dealing with an injury in the build-up.

Compatriot Andy Murray, champion in 2013 and 2016 but unseeded now after his battles with hip injuries, is up against Australian James Duckworth.
Former champion Simona Halep, the 16th seed, will feature in probably the pick of the women's first-round clashes as she takes on Czech Karolina Muchova.

On the men's side, standout first-round matches include three-time Grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka against rising Italian Jannik Sinner while Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios takes on British hopeful Paul Jubb.
Looking further into the draw Djokovic is on course to face fifth seed Alcaraz in the quarter-finals while last year's runner-up Matteo Berrettini, who opens against Chile's Cristian Garin, could face Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Nadal's seeded quarter-final opponent is Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime who he beat on the way to the French Open title.
Swiatek's projected quarter-final opponent is American Jessica Pegula.
Williams, if she survives her opener against Tan, could face Spanish 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round with a possible third round against last year's runner-up Karolina Pliskova