Coach casts doubt on Rafael Nadal Grand Slam hopes as he suggests title Spaniard should target

Rafael Nadal in Brisbane

Tennis coach Thomas Drouet has expressed doubt over the chances of Rafael Nadal winning a Grand Slam title due to concerns over the Spaniard’s body.

The former player and hitting partner questioned whether Nadal would be able to handle successive matches in the five-set format and suggested the Paris Olympics “could be the thing” to target.

Nadal withdrew from the 2024 Australian Open last month due to a hip muscle injury that surfaced during his comeback at the Brisbane International. The issue emerged during the Spaniard’s three-set defeat to world No 55 Jordan Thompson at the ATP 250 event.

Prior to Brisbane, Nadal had not played a singles match since losing to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, where he sustained a hip injury. The former world No 1 underwent arthroscopic surgery to treat the psoas muscle in his hip in June 2023.

The 37-year-old is set to make his return to action at the hard-court ATP 250 tournament in Doha that will begin on February 19.

Drouet has been a coach and hitting partner for several WTA stars, including Marion Bartoli, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Peng Shuai, Wang Qiang and Anna Blinkova.

The 40-year-old gave his thoughts on Nadal’s prospects ahead of his upcoming return from the setback he suffered early in his comeback.

“It’s not in terms of level. He’s still an amazing player, but his body, I don’t think his body is able anymore to handle this discharge, you know, this intensity. He played one match and the next match, boom, he got injured. And just imagine, for men, it’s best of five,” the Monegasque told Essentially Sports.

“Even if they are at the maximum, it’s already not easy, but if they are at 70%, then… If he sees that every time he wants to try to play a Grand Slam, he can’t play two matches in a row, what’s the point for this guy to play?

“He’s not going to play to win a 500 or to win an Indian Wells. For many players, that would be a dream. But for him now, he’s playing only for the Grand Slam, maybe the Olympics. Maybe the Olympics—that could be the thing.”

Drouet, who has practised with Nadal, discussed the experience and conveyed the intensity the 22-time Grand Slam champion trains with.

“It’s okay. To be honest, that’s the only player who put my heart rate here on line. And it was impressive to play with him. Usually I was doing two weeks [as a] hitting partner with him,” he explained.

“And after when I was going to play tournaments, I was like, wow, it’s so easy. I was improving so much. But really I learned so many things in terms of discipline, how he was giving 200%.

“We were playing three hours and for three hours, it was 200% in terms of fitness, technique, but also focus. So I was like, wow. So this is what you need to become this special, because they are special.

“And I kept this in my mind and I use it in my training coaching also. That’s what I put in my players, that daily discipline.”

READ MORE: Top coach ranks the best 5 forehands ever and includes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer