Fresh doubts over Rafael Nadal’s hopes of playing at the French Open

Rafael Nadal training

Rafael Nadal’s hopes of getting back to full fitness for the French Open appear to be fading and a decision over whether he will defend his Roland Garros title could be made in the coming days.

Nadal has yet to play a match on the regular ATP Tour in 2019, with his second round defeat against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open in January his last appearance on court.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion suffered a hip injury in that match that has kept him off court since and after a Youtube video emerged of him struggling to train at his Academy in Majorca in recent days, there are suggestions that Nadal may be running out of time to play in Paris.

There are some doubts over when the video of Nadal struggling on the practice court was taken, but it is clear that he is now running out of time to play at the French Open.

The Spaniard’s 14 French Open titles highlight his dominance at Ronald Garros and he is expected to attempt to play in the second Grand Slam of 2023 even if he is not fully fit.

Yet Nadal’s lack of preparation for the tournament would suggest he may not be ready in time to compete on the red clay in the French capital and the 36-year-old will make a call on his participation before the draw.

Nadal had pulled out of the Madrid Open and the Italian Open by issuing video messages to his fans on his social media platforms.

Now he is likely to follow that path again if he is forced to pull out of the French Open.

While there are no suggestions that Nadal is considering his long-term future in the sport at this stage, the delay in his return to action has fuelled rumours that this could be his final year on the tour.

Yet 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert has insisted Nadal should not be written off yet, as he remains a threat on a clay court.

“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.

“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. Carlos 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.”

If Nadal misses the French Open, he may also miss Wimbledon as his body has struggled to adapt to grass in recent years, with his withdrawal from the event at the semi-final stage last year further evidence of the physical challenges he is living through.

Nadal will drop out of the top 100 in the ATP rankings if he fails to play at the French Open and may need a wild card to get into ATP 1000 events in north America and the US Open if he attempts to make a comeback in the second half of 2023.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal can’t be underestimated at Roland Garros – ‘I made the mistake of doubting him’