Rafael Nadal says he is feeling better and this might not be his last French Open

Nadal said he has been practicing well and feels as if he can play with anyone now, a sensation that has been fleeting for a while.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the first set against Germany's Alexander Zverev during their semifinal match at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2022.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the first set against Germany's Alexander Zverev during their semifinal match at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2022.(Photo | AP)

PARIS: Rafael Nadal smiled. He joked. He sounded upbeat. He’s been playing well and feeling better in practice. He is eager to get going at Roland Garros after dealing for so long with hip and abdominal problems.

Oh, and then there’s this little tidbit he dropped during a pre-tournament news conference Saturday: This French Open might not turn out to be the 14-time champion’s last appearance at his favorite event, after all.

Because of his age — he turns 38 on June 3 — and his injuries and his past statements about figuring 2024 would be his last year on tour, everyone from other players to fans to the media has been assuming it will be his farewell appearance at the French Open.

Asked whether that’s accurate, Nadal smiled and replied: “Don’t assume that.”

“It’s a big, big chance that it’s going to be my last Roland Garros,” Nadal said. “But if I have to tell you it’s 100% my last Roland Garros? Sorry, but I will not. Because I cannot predict what’s going on.”

The Spaniard, who turns 38 on June 3, missed much of the last two seasons because of health problems, including hip surgery that forced him to sit out the French Open a year ago, his first absence there since he made his debut as a teenager. He is just 7-4 in 2024, and there had been some doubt after a lopsided loss at the Italian Open two weeks ago whether he would even enter the clay-court tournament in Paris at all.

But he did show up and has been training in front of loud crowds this week. Because his ranking is so low after such little activity — once No. 1, he was No. 276 this week — Nadal did not get the benefit of a seeding and was drawn to face No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev in a showdown that will be the focus on Monday, Day 2 of the tournament.

“Ideally, I would have liked to play him in the later stage of the tournament, but it is how it is now. He is unseeded this year. I am seeded,” Zverev said. “You know, it’s a tough draw, but it’s a tough draw for both of us. We’ll see how it goes.”

Nadal said he has been practicing well and feels as if he can play with anyone now, a sensation that has been fleeting for a while.

“I probably will say is the first week since I come back playing tennis that I am able to run the proper way without having a lot of limitations,” he said. “That encourages me.”

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