Rafael Nadal facing humiliating rankings collapse after French Open

Rafael Nadal after a match

Rafael Nadal dropped out of the top ten of the ATP rankings for the first time in 18 years last month, but an even more catastrophic fall from grace could be coming his way.

The Spanish legend is battling to overcome injury problems to take his place in the draw at next month’s French Open, where he will defend his title.

Nadal has won a remarkable 14 titles at Roland Garros, with his status as the greatest clay court player of all-time secured long ago.

Yet after an injury-plagued few months, the 37-year-old is now facing up to what would be a humiliating slide down the ATP rankings.

After pulling out of this week’s Madrid Open, Nadal has yet to confirm whether he will make his return to the ATP Tour at the Rome Masters event later this month.

There are also doubts about his participation in the French Open and if he were to miss the tournaments in Rome and Paris, Nadal would drop out of the world’s top 100.

He would be getting close to a position where he would need a wild card to gain entry to Grand Slam events and while that would also be assured for a player of his status, his days as a seed in major events would be over for now.

Nadal has yet to make an appearance in a regular ATP Tour event in 2023, with the injury he suffered in his second round defeat against Mackenzie MacDonald at the Australian Open in January keeping him off court since.

While he has been practicing in recent weeks, Nadal confirmed he was not ready to play in Madrid and all eyes will now be on whether he will play in Rome.

He will lose 90 points from his current ATP points haul of 2,535 if he fails to make an appearance in the Italian capital.

Yet it will be in Paris where his biggest fall could come, as he will be defending 2,000 points after his victory in last year’s tournament.

It would be asking a lot of Nadal to spring back into top form after so many months away from the tour and even if he was to reach the quarter-finals in Paris, that would only be enough to allow him to cling on to a place in the top 50 of the rankings.

If we was ruled out of the French Open, his demotion from the top 100 of the ATP rankings would be confirmed, but there is an expectation that the veteran will get back on court in time to defend his title.

Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni has suggested his nephew will be in Paris next month, gunning for a 15th Roland Garros crown.

“He would like to be competing now, but there is little left for that to happen,” Nadal said in an interview with Radio MARCA.

“He is going to play in Paris, although how he trains in the coming weeks and what he can do in Rome will be important to measure his aspirations there.”

In his social media announcement confirming his withdrawal from the Madrid Open, Nadal stated his injury issues have not been resolved.

“The injury still hasn’t healed and I can’t work out what I need to compete,” stated Nadal.

“I was training, but now a few days ago we decided to change course a bit, do another treatment and see if things improve to try to get to what comes next.

“I can’t give deadlines because if I knew, I would tell you, but I don’t know. This is how things are now.”

If Nadal was to drop out of the top 100 in the world rankings, it would fuel rumours that he may be close to calling time on his record-breaking career.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal will be at Roland Garros says uncle Toni