Rafael Nadal’s injury-hit season likened to Roger Federer’s last stand on the ATP Tour

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup

There are similarities between Rafael Nadal’s current fitness battles and Roger Federer’s final few years on the ATP Tour before he retired from the sport.

After playing 47 matches last year that saw him win four titles including the Australian Open and French Open, tennis fans were hoping Nadal would back that up in 2023 with another full season.

However, he has played only four matches so far this year – two at the United Cup and two at the Australian Open – as he has struggled with a hip injury.

Having missed last week’s Monte Carlo Masters and this week’s Barcelona Open, the 36-year-old is now expected to make his return at the Madrid Open, which gets underway on April 24.

Madrid Open Tournament Director Feliciano Lopez is hopeful that the 22-time Grand Slam winner will feature in the ATP Masters 1000 event at the Spanish capital later this month, but admits it pains him to see his good friend struggling with injury.

“I’m more concerned as a friend. On a tennis level, obviously I hope that he can play again and get to Roland Garros ready, which is the main goal,” he told Puntodebreak.com.

“But it worries me more on a personal level, that a player who has spent his whole life succeeding, is now going through this, so hopefully he will recover soon, if it can be in Madrid then great.

“People are waiting for him, they are eager to see him playing, the people of Madrid always give him a lot of affection every time he plays, that’s why I’m worried that this problem will last a little longer.”

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Lopez also likened Nadal’s struggles with his great rival Federer’s final years as a professional. After picking up a knee injury in January 2020, the Swiss great missed the remainder of that season and only returned in March the following year.

He played only a handful of events, including the French Open and Wimbledon, before ending his season early to undergo several more operations on his knee.

After initially stating he planned to return in the summer of 2022, Federer announced his retirement in September, stating that the Laver Cup would be his final event as a professional.

Lopez added: “It hurts me that he is going through this, just as it happened to Federer, who had to retire without being able to play, playing a doubles match half injured, although it was quite a reason, but I do not think it was what he had dreamed of after all he has achieved.

“I am hopeful that the injury is not so serious and in 1-2 weeks to have him back.”