‘I still have faith in seeing Rafael Nadal win another Roland Garros title’, says former ATP star

Rafael Nadal crowned 2022 French Open champion

Feliciano Lopez has declared that he still has faith in seeing his compatriot Rafael Nadal win another French Open title ahead of his comeback in 2024.

The former world no 12 also highlighted the fact that the 2024 Olympic tennis event will be played at Roland Garros, which he described as “the garden of Nadal’s house.”

Nadal has not competed since sustaining a hip injury in his second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the 2023 Australian Open in January. The former world No 1 underwent surgery to address the injury in June, having initially expected to be out for around six to eight weeks.

The 37-year-old was forced to postpone his intended comeback during the clay-court season and missed the French Open for the first time since 2004. He revealed in a press conference announcing his withdrawal from Roland Garros that 2024 would likely be his final season on the tour.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion announced he would be making his return to the tour at the Brisbane International at the start of January ahead of the 2024 Australian Open.

Nadal won his most recent Major title at the 2022 French Open, where he defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets to claim a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown.

The Spaniard, who claimed his maiden Grand Slam title on his French Open debut in 2005, holds an unimaginable 112-3 (97%) record at the clay-court Major.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open entry confirmed, but what is the protected ranking that he will use?

In an interview with AS, Lopez expressed his happiness at the news of Nadal’s return and suggested the ‘King of Clay’ could be a serious factor at both big events held at Roland Garros next year.

“I was just as worried as everyone. But, since a few months, things have been very different. He has made a lot of progress with the injury and is very happy and eager to return. His intention is to go to Australia. A tremendous joy,” the 42-year-old Spaniard said.

“A player like Rafa is missed. As a fan, you don’t know how much longer [Novak] Djokovic is going to be [around]; Rafa is not there and [Roger] Federer retired.

“There is an important void, which [Carlos] Alcaraz fills for the moment. [Daniil] Medvedev has also been successful and [Jannik] Sinner, next year, be careful… But that does not mean that the void is very big.

“I hope Rafa arrives in Paris well enough to compete against anyone. I still have faith in seeing him win another Roland Garros. And there are also some Olympic Games there, in the garden of his house…”

Lopez, who turned professional in 1997, won seven ATP singles titles during an impressive 26-year career, which he called time on in June this year.

The big-serving left-hander lost to Yannick Hanfmann in the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Championships ATP 250 tournament in June. Lopez also won six doubles titles, including the 2016 French Open, and reached a career-high ATP doubles ranking of world No 9.

The 42-year-old won four of his 14 encounters with Nadal between 2003 and 2020. He and Nadal were teammates in Spain’s Davis Cup-winning squads in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2019.

READ MORE: ‘I have great faith in Rafael Nadal and believe he won’t disappoint in hardest comeback yet’