Chris Evert warns Rafael Nadal should not be ‘underestimated’ ahead of French Open

Delight for Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal should not be underestimated at this year’s French Open despite his injury struggles, believes tennis legend Chris Evert.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion recognised, though, that the preparation both Nadal and Novak Djokovic have had prior to Roland Garros has not been ideal.

Nadal, a 14-time French Open winner, is yet to compete on clay this year and has not featured since sustaining a hip injury at the Australian Open in January.

The current world No 14 withdrew ahead of the ongoing Italian Open after already missing Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

The 36-year-old Spaniard is the defending champion at the Paris major, having defeated Casper Ruud in last year’s final.

Djokovic, a two-time Roland Garros champion, missed the Madrid Open with an elbow injury after struggling at clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo and Banja Luka. The world No 1 will face Tomas Martin Etcheverry in his opening match in Rome.

The 35-year-old Serbian won his most recent French Open crown in 2021 after coming from two sets down to overcome Stefanos Tsitsipas in the title match.

Evert, who won a record seven Roland Garros women’s singles titles, discussed the doubts over the great duo heading into the second major of the season.

“When I look at the men – Novak and Rafa – with question marks about their health. These two are the greatest, they’ve been the greatest clay-court players in the last few years and as they get older, they’re getting a little bit more injured,” Evert told Eurosport.

“We don’t know what their status is going to be. I’m curious to see Novak and Rafa, just hopefully they’re 100%, but we don’t know.”

The 68-year-old American singled out Nadal as the man who should not be counted out in Paris, while also highlighting the form of world No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz.

“You can’t underestimate Rafa. I really haven’t seen great clay-court form from either of them in the last few weeks. I just feel like maybe their preparation isn’t great. Alcaraz has had the better preparation. He’s confident as heck.

“When it comes to Novak and Rafa, they’re the ones with superior experience and they know how to navigate better than anybody. They know how to manage their emotions, they favour the majors more than anything and they come out of the starting gate ready to play vintage tennis.”

Nadal and Djokovic are currently tied on a men’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

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