Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal ‘most probably’ in his final season claims former No.1

Rafael Nadal has been very open about the fact that 2024 could be his final season on the ATP Tour, but former No.1 Mats Wilander does think the Spaniard will at least make a final appearance at Roland Garros.

Nadal withdrew from Indian Wells two weeks ago, revealing that he was not ready to return to the tour, despite playing an exhibition against Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas days prior.

And Wilander suggested that he was surprised when Nadal announced his withdrawal, when speaking to Eurosport, “When you see that match in Las Vegas and you see that Rafa is out and he’s been practicing, he’s playing golf and all that, you think, ‘Okay, well he must be healthy’. And then when he pulls out, it’s also clear that, no, he isn’t healthy.”

The Swede continued, “There’s no chance that if Rafa goes to Indian Wells early just like he did to Australia, when he went to Brisbane – and he was looking really good in a couple of matches, and then he has to pull out – it’s not like he’s scared, he’s injured.

“And with this problem, ‘I cannot: A) win too many matches, B) I can make it worse. And that’s not why I’m here. That’s not why I’m playing tennis. I would like to get a couple of matches under my belt’. The courts in Indian Wells, they are perfect for Rafa, if you’re talking about hard court. So it’s very disappointing.”

In his withdrawal announcement, Nadal implied that the focus was to be in the best shape possible for the upcoming clay court season.

Despite Nadal withdrawing from the Australian Open, Qatar Open and Indian Wells in recent months, Wilander appears to believe he will compete at Roland Garros.

“He does show signs of wanting to come back really badly, which is why I do think we’re going to see him in Paris,” revealed Wilander. “And if we don’t, it’s only going to be because he has a little bit of an injury and he doesn’t want to make it worse. Why? Because he’s still looking ahead to the future.

“Is this the last year for Rafa? Maybe. Most probably. I’m not sure, but certainly we haven’t seen the last of him playing a competitive match when he’s feeling 100%. I think he’s still waiting for that moment.”

Nadal is next set to compete at the Monte Carlo Masters, before heading to the Barcelona Open, both tournaments where he has won a record number of titles.

Wilander has previewed how the clay court season could go for Nadal, “When I think he’ll be ready for Roland Garros is either when he pulls out of the Italian Open, because he’s done well in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, or when he wins a couple of matches at the Italian Open because he’s done well in the previous three weeks on clay.”

Inside the baseline…

It has been a very frustrating past year for Rafael Nadal, who has hardly played at all and seems to face setbacks when he does. Nadal will do everything to be able to play Roland Garros one more time, however going from hardly playing at all to competing in best-of-five matches could be a big step. Hopefully Nadal can have a proper farewell at Roland Garros in the Olympics, rather than limping his way to the finishing line.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal claims he’s ‘a realist’ ahead of the clay court season

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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.