Rafael Nadal can’t be underestimated at Roland Garros – ‘I made the mistake of doubting him’
Coco Gauff insists she won’t make the same mistake twice by underestimating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, even if he goes into the tournament without any matches under his belt on clay this year.
There are major question marks over 14-time French Open champion Nadal’s participation in this year’s clay-court Grand Slam as he hasn’t played any competitive matches since mid-January due to a hip injury.
Going into the French Open undercooked is always a big risk, but Nadal was in a similar situation last year as he had played only five matches on the surface ahead of the tournament yet still went all the way, defeating Casper Ruud in three sets in the final to win a record-extending title.
However, the big question is if it can be done with zero matches on the surface in the build-up to Paris.
World No 5 Gauff, though, feels it would be foolish to write the 22-time Grand Slam winner off ahead of the tournament.
“If he goes, I’m going to take him in Paris any day,” the American said. “I don’t think he needs match experience. I’m sure he probably would have preferred to play some matches before. I think that him and Roland Garros is something special.
“There’s been times, I remember last year, he was having that problem, completely lost that match, didn’t look like he was going to be ready at all. I made the mistake of doubting him.
“Next thing you know, he pretty much stormed his way to the final and won straight sets. He’s just a GOAT in that way, a GOAT on clay, someone you can’t underestimate.”
Besides Nadal, world No 1 Novak Djokovic and the in-form Carlos Alcaraz are the other favourites to win the 2023 title at Roland Garros, but Gauff admits the draw might be quite open this year.
She added: “I think for the tournament, if he doesn’t play, obviously it would suck to have a player like him not play, but also I feel like the tour has a lot of – I think it will open it up for the guys, the men’s side.
“Then again, we haven’t seen him play in so long. So maybe the draw is open. I don’t know. But I definitely think he’s going to be a threat regardless if he plays or not.”
READ MORE: Was the explosive Rafael Nadal headline disrespectful to an all-time great?
Novak Djokovic reaches incredible new ATP Rankings milestone to cement GOAT status
Novak Djokovic takes a symbolic leap ahead of Roger Federer in GOAT battle.
Andy Murray sends emotional message to his father after milestone victory
“I’m very proud of that… not many players that have done that.”
Andy Murray may have accidentally given a big retirement hint after Dubai win
Andy Murray’s retirement from tennis may be sooner than many have predicted.
‘Special’ Carlos Alcaraz labelled the French Open favourite by former world No 3
“It is a learning experience and Carlos is able to assume and accept where he can improve.”
Novak Djokovic resolves one of his big worries as he prepares for ATP Tour comeback
Novak Djokovic has resolved one of his biggest dilemmas with his travel plans for his trip to America.
Former world No 6 gives insight into how he is helping Daniil Medvedev in coaching role
“He gave me a list of 16 players he doesn’t like to play against, and I prepared 16 tactics!”
‘Rafael Nadal will without a doubt play next season if he avoids injuries’ – former world No 3
“If he doesn’t have any injuries he will be competitive and if he is competitive, he will continue for another year.”
Jannik Sinner lauded for avoiding Emma Raducanu, Matteo Berrettini ‘fault’ by refusing big invite
“It’s important to have people around you that are advising you to say what is your priority.”
2024 WTA Rankings: Iga Swiatek holds sway as big guns flop, Jasmine Paolini and Anna Kalinskaya cash in
This way for your post-2024 Dubai WTA Rankings.
2024 ATP Rankings: Novak Djokovic extends record, Jannik Sinner putting pressure on Carlos Alcaraz
Battle for world No 2 ranking between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner set to intensify.