Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal ‘can’t be underestimated’ claims 18-time Grand Slam champion

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been backed by 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, despite their preparation for the second major of the year not being ideal.

Nadal has been out of action since the Australian Open, when he picked up a grade two tear to the iliopsoas, and has not returned to the ATP tour since despite revealing the original recovery time was only supposed to be six to eight weeks.

With his injury, the Spaniard has had to withdraw from his favourite clay tournaments including Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and the Italian Open that is taking place right now.

Fellow 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic has also had recent injury issues, with his elbow that he had surgery on back in 2018 being strapped in Monte Carlo and Banja Luka.

The Serb withdrew from the Madrid Open, but is returning to action in Rome this week where he has been seen practicing without the strapping.

Chris Evert has revealed her hopes for the two tennis legends, as she labels Nadal and Djokovic the ‘greatest clay-court players’.

“Hopefully everybody’s healthy – it seems like a lot of the players have been injured recently,” said Evert.

She continued, “When I look at the men – Novak and Rafa – with question marks about their health. These two are the greatest, they’ve been the greatest clay-court players in the last few years and as they get older, they’re getting a little bit more injured.”

“We don’t know what their status is going to be. I’m curious to see Novak and Rafa, just hopefully they’re 100%, but we don’t know.”

Evert particularly honed in on Nadal, who is a record 14-time champion in Paris, while also mentioning Carlos Alcaraz who will become No.1 after the Italian Open.

“You can’t underestimate Rafa. I really haven’t seen great clay-court form from either of them in the last few weeks. I just feel like maybe their preparation isn’t great. Alcaraz has had the better preparation. He’s confident as heck,” claimed Evert.

The former No.1 added, “When it comes to Novak and Rafa, they’re the ones with superior experience and they know how to navigate better than anybody. They know how to manage their emotions, they favour the majors more than anything and they come out of the starting gate ready to play vintage tennis.”

Rafael Nadal record at Roland Garros

Nadal has only ever lost 45 career matches on clay, with a win record of 91.3% on the surface.

His record at Roland Garros is even more impressive, as he has a 97.4% win record, with only three defeats in his 115 matches.

Here are Nadal’s three rare defeats at the clay major:

2009 – Nadal lost in the fourth round to Robin Soderling (23), 2-6 7-6(2) 4-6 6(2)-7

2015 – Nadal lost in the quarter-final to Novak Djokovic (1), 5-7 3-6 1-6

2021 – Nadal lost in the semi-final to Novak Djokovic (1), 6-3 3-6 6(4)-7 2-6

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.