Rafael Nadal backed in optimistic French Open, Olympics prediction by former world No 7

Ewan West
Rafael Nadal is making his ATP Tour comeback
Rafael Nadal is making his ATP Tour comeback

Former world No 7 Emilio Sanchez Vicario has expressed his belief that Rafael Nadal will be “100 per cent at his best” at Roland Garros and the Olympics. 

The 15-time ATP titlist thinks Nadal has been “afraid” because the operation he underwent last year “bothers him”, but feels this will change when he starts competing on clay courts.

Nadal has played just one tournament and three competitive matches since the 2023 Australian Open, when he suffered a hip injury in his loss to Mackenzie McDonald.

The 37-year-old underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip in June last year and had a setback with the same hip in his comeback tournament in Brisbane in January.

The former world No 1 was forced to pull out of the 2024 Australian Open, and has since withdrawn from events in Doha and Indian Wells, where he had hoped to return.

Nadal is expected to try to play at the Monte Carlo Masters in April to start his clay-court season in preparation for the 2024 French Open, which he has identified as his priority.

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Given the 2024 Paris Olympics will be staged at Stade Roland Garros, this has also been identified as a tournament that would appeal to Nadal in what could be his final season. The tennis event at this year’s Games will be held from July 27 to August 4.

In an interview with EFE, Sanchez Vicario played down the prospect of Nadal’s retirement being imminent and argued his struggle to compete has been “a battle with himself.”

“I don’t think he will leave us. I think he will play well. I think what he has is [he] a little afraid because the operation bothers him,” the 58-year-old Spaniard said.

“But if he starts competing on land he will no longer be afraid because he will start competing and if he gets in shape, I believe that at Roland Garros and the Olympic Games he will be 100 per cent at his best. If more damage is not done.

“For me, it’s more of a battle with himself, of freeing himself to play than what he has in himself. Because when he went to Australia he played well. But he played a game that hurt him a little and then he got a lot worried. But on land It’s going to hurt a lot less.”

Sanchez Vicario — brother of four-time women’s Grand Slam champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario — is a former world No 1 in men’s doubles. He played between 1984 and 1998, while he was Spain’s Davis Cup captain when they won the competition in 2008.

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