Rafael Nadal to win French Open No 15 next year? How long does he have left to play? Pundits have their say
Rafael Nadal has been backed to win a 15th title at Roland Garros next year, but Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman have contrasting views when it comes to how long the Spaniard will continue to play tennis.
There were major question marks over Nadal’s tennis player future at the end of the 2021 season as he missed the second half of the campaign due to his chronic foot injury.
However, he returned with a bang as he won four consecutive tournaments – including the Australian Open to become the first man to 21 Grand Slams and the Indian Wells Masters.
After struggling with injury in the build-up to the French Open there were also doubts over his ability to win in Paris again yet he went on claim a 14th title on the clay and move to 22 Grand Slams.
The second half of the 2022 season was then disrupted as he played only a handful of matches following the birth of his son after the US Open while he lost early at the Paris Masters and was knocked out in the round-robin phase of the ATP Finals.
With the 36-year-old’s season over, former British No 1s Rusedski and Henman debated his future.
“French Open is gonna be No 15 coming up next year,” Rusedski said on Amazon Prime Video.
The 1997 US Open finalist added: “That’s one that if he believes he can still win, he’s gonna keep on playing in for another five years if he still thinks he can win the French Open. But physically I don’t think the body will allow him to do so but as long as he believes he can win Majors, he’ll be in the sport.”
Former world No 4 Henman feels Nadal will play for at least another year-and-a-half.
“Yes, I think he will,” he said. “I reckon Rafa, if I had to sort of put a time frame on it, I would think Rafa’s got a good 18 months left. I think certainly a full schedule next year, will he be around [for] Roland Garros in 2024? You know, there’s a chance. With that type of attitude, that work ethic, I really hope we see it.”
However, while Nadal will also be considered the favourite at Roland Garros, world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz can no longer be counted out when it comes to winning majors.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting, he’s been the clear favourite for so long at Roland Garros I think his fellow countryman Carlos Alcaraz could have something else to say about that,” Henman said.
There is Novak Djokovic as well as the 21-time Grand Slam winner is expected to play a full season after his 2021 campaign was disrupted due to his unvaccinated status. Djokovic has already been given the green light to play at the 2023 Australian Open after his visa ban was overturned.
Rusedski added: “Next year is going to be exciting in Paris because of the fact you have Alcaraz as you said, Djokovic will have had a full season coming in there as well so it’s going to get more difficult but never discount the King of Clay.”
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