Toni Nadal makes Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz admission as he assesses Rafael Nadal hopes

Toni Nadal and Rafael Nadal

Toni Nadal has declared he still believes Rafael Nadal can win the French Open but admitted it will be “very difficult” for his nephew to defeat Novak Djokovic or Carlos Alcaraz. 

The legendary coach said he is “always positive” about Nadal’s chances and believes he will have an opportunity to triumph at Roland Garros once again if healthy.

The Mallorcan coached his nephew from his childhood until 2017, helping Nadal win 16 of his 22 Grand Slam titles. He is the director of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca and has also been working with current world No 29 Felix Auger-Aliassime since 2021.

Nadal recently announced he would be making his comeback at the Brisbane International tournament in January in preparation for the 2024 Australian Open.

The 37-year-old has not played since suffering a hip injury in his second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the 2023 Australian Open in January. The 2former world No 1 underwent surgery on the issue in June, having initially expected to be out for only six to eight weeks.

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

READ MORE: Entry list confirmed for Rafael Nadal’s comeback tournament and he could face an old foe

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

The ‘King of Clay’, who claimed his maiden Major title on his French Open debut in 2005, holds an incredible 112-3 (97%) record at Roland Garros.

Speaking on former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli’s show on RMC Sport, Toni Nadal discussed his long-time protégé’s hopes of adding to his remarkable trophy haul at the clay-court Major.

“I’m always positive. I still believe he can win, although it will be very difficult to beat Djokovic and Alcaraz. But I think if Rafael is healthy he will have a chance to win. I hope that once again he gets the chance to win. This is my dream. We’ll see after,” he said.

Nadal won his most recent meeting with Djokovic in the quarter-finals of the 2022 French Open, while he was beaten by Alcaraz in the last eight of the 2022 Madrid Open in the pair’s last clash.

Since Nadal’s 2022 Roland Garros victory, Djokovic and Alcaraz have won the last six Grand Slam titles between them, with the Serbian securing four and the Spaniard claiming two.

In a video update on social media, Nadal discussed the challenges he has faced this year as he has worked towards his comeback.

“It’s been a long year in which I’ve gone through many phases, from trying to get back to compete at the clay season, week after week disappointment after disappointment,” said the Mallorcan.

“Then I had to decide to stop and say ‘enough’ and look for a definite solution, which was surgery. Since then, everything has been a new horizon, a difficult path, but always with the hope of coming back.

“Of course, there were moments where it seemed impossible that this moment would come, but we’ve maintained the work, spirit and hope and I think I am ready.”

READ MORE: Carlos Alcaraz reveals player who remains his idol as he names Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer as inspirations