The French Open is just not the same now says former champ

Rafael Nadal in action

Former French Open winner Mats Wilander believes that some of the gloss has been taken off this season’s event thanks to the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal.

Nadal has been a long-term injury absentee and announced this week that he wouldn’t be able to make the defence of his crown.

Synonymous with the French Open, Nadal’s withdrawal leaves a massive void in the men’s half of the draw.

Wilander insists that this will be a very unusual tournament and hopes that Nadal will make a return next season for a proper farewell.

“The French Open is just not the same now that Rafael Nadal has decided not to play,” Wilander told Eurosport.

Wilander believes that the winner of this season’s French Open will always have a question mark hanging over their title.

“The winner is always going to be questioned about if they could have won it if Nadal was in the tournament,” Wilander added.

“The positive part of the announcement that Rafa made is that, of course, he is still thinking about playing at least another season.”

Wilander believes that Nadal’s absence is also an opportunity for another player to step up and win the clay court Grand Slam.

He feels that it is better that Nadal is absent rather than forcing himself to turn up for a defence when he isn’t fully fit and raring to go.

“We wish for him to play forever, and to play at Roland-Garros forever; but at the same time, I don’t want to see him come to Paris and not be 100%, not feeling good and risking his future life,” Wilander said.

“To the rest of the players: this is your chance because Rafa is not there, so you had better take it.”

Wilander believes that we have been robbed of a potential changing of the guard moment this season with Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune tipped as future winners of the French Open.

“To the young guys like Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune, it would have been great for them to have been able to play Rafael Nadal at the French Open once before he is done, but we just cross our fingers that he will be back next year,” Wilander said.

“This year is going to be a tough tournament without Rafa – we miss him.”

Alcaraz is now the favourite for the French Open title but there are a number of strong candidates for a Grand Slam win in the field.

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