Rafael Nadal cannot afford to switch off against Alexander Zverev warns Tim Henman

Rafael Nadal in action

Tim Henman believes Rafael Nadal’s biggest challenge against Alexander Zverev at the French Open will be mental rather than physical.

Nadal shrugged off a chronic foot injury to beat arch-rival, defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic in four gruelling sets on Tuesday night.

The Spaniard, who turns 36 on Friday, faces another huge test of his fitness when he takes on 25-year-old world number three Zverev in the semi-final.

Nadal has shown no signs of the recurring chronic injury that cut short his run in Rome but with so little tennis under his belt, it will stake a great effort to get over the line.

But Eurosport pundit and former British No 1 Henman told the channel: “Rafa’s physicality is unbelievable.

“Let’s wind the clock back to when we saw him walking off the court having lost to Denis Shapovalov and he was limping in Rome. Then 10 days later he’s in this tournament playing incredible tennis, he had to really pull it out of the bag against (Felix) Auger-Aliassime to go the five sets.

“We know he’s not getting any younger, but then to recover and to go up against Djokovic – one of his greatest rivals, the number one player in the world – and put in a performance like that, not only the quality of the tennis but his attitude, the physicality for four hours and 12 minutes, it’s incredible.

France Tennis French Open
Nadal faces world number three Alexander Zverev (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

“There’s going to be a physical challenge, but it’s also a mental challenge because normally when Rafa beats Djokovic in a grand slam it’s the final and he gets handed the trophy, but that was the quarter-finals.

“So yes, he does have two days to recover, but this is going to be a tough test even for Rafa.”

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