Rafael Nadal’s absence will act as French Open leveller

Rafael Nadal in action

Two-time French Open finalist Alex Corretja believes that the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal might end up acting against the ambitions of Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

Djokovic and Alcaraz are the two men with the audacity to believe that they could slay the king of clay on his favourite stomping ground.

However, Corretja believes that his withdrawal will bolster the hopes of a gaggle of players who now have the potential to contend for the second Grand Slam of the year.

Corretja feels that they will still be relieved that they won’t have to overcome the 14-time champion at Roland Garros.

The rankings hit that Nadal has taken mean that he might have been set to meet a top player as early as the Round of 16.

“It has a massive impact,” Corretja told Eurosport.

“Whatever tournament you enter, if Nadal is not there then there is a hole in the draw where you are missing someone. But if it’s Roland-Garros, it’s not a hole, it’s a whole world missing there!

“It is going to start making other players believe that they can win Roland-Garros – more than two hours ago [before Nadal’s announcement]. That is, for sure, something that the players feel.

“It does not necessarily need to be more pressure for the guys that feel they can win Roland-Garros.

“I think they will feel sad for Rafa, sad for tennis, but relief for themselves, knowing that the biggest guy on earth on clay, in the history of tennis, is not going to be there.

“Whenever you are one of the favourites for the tournament and one of your toughest opponents goes out, you need to deal with yourself and with your own pressure.

“Inside, you feel that you have been given a better chance to win this tournament. This is how they will feel with Rafa not playing.”

L’Equipe journalist Quentin Moynet said that it would be the French fans who are hit hardest by the withdrawal.

“It may sound extreme, but I think you could argue Rafael is more important than the French Open in a way,” he said from the Rome Open press room.

“You don’t see many statues of players in any sport outside a stadium while they are still playing. That’s a real statement of the impact he has made on tennis in our country and in sport as a whole.

“It’s funny because I don’t think he was loved by the French crowds in the early years when he was winning. In France we like an underdog sometimes and he was just too good on Chatrier, even for Roger Federer.

“But over the years that appreciation and adoration has grown. There was one year I recall him in tears following another title and the fact that he had finally, fully endeared himself to the French public once and for all.

“Now, we are all scared that this could be it. He wants to return and play one more time in 2024 and I hope he can do it so he can say goodbye properly.

“Knowing Rafael, it wouldn’t be a first round defeat either. You wouldn’t bet against him in 2024 if he is fit, but there is no doubt this year’s tournament is going to be weird without him.

“It’s hard for us all to take. First Roger (retires) and now it feels like Rafa is almost gone. The world of tennis almost feels over!”

The French Open gets underway on Sunday 28 May 2023.