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Nadal’s road back from rib injury – ‘I’m trying to face these days like a pre-season’

The road to Roland-Garros begins now for Rafael Nadal. The King of Clay is free of his rib injury and ready to make up for lost time

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal of Spain practises during the Mutua Madrid Open 2022 celebrated at La Caja Magica on April 28, 2022, in Madrid, Spain (Zuma/Panoramic)

The road to Roland-Garros is a road to recovery for Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard has been out of action since he picked up a stress fracture in his rib at Indian Wells during his victory over Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals, but he’s ready to hit the ground running on home soil.

He will return to action in Madrid later this week, against either Miomir Kecmanovic or Alexander Bublik in the second round, but the five-time champion and No 3 seed told the media on Sunday that he is operating under low expectations this week.

Nadal – I’m recovered

Nadal says he is completely fit now, but he lacks reps because he has been off the court for so long.

“Talking about injury, I’m recovered,” Nadal told reporters. “I feel good. Talking about my tennis game and preparations, well, it’s completely different story. Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks. I wasn’t able to do anything with a lot of difficulties even to fall asleep even because of the pain, but after that, little by little I was able to go a little bit to the gym.”

Nadal said that the nature of the rib injury made it impossible to do much as he waited to get healthy.

“It’s true it’s an injury that didn’t allow me to practically do anything, not even to train,” he said. “If I was having to do something aerobic, to breathe, a lot of pain. If I made movements, it was difficult.”

Nadal – I couldn’t practise any shot

We can expect some rust in Nadal’s game this week in Madrid. But the good news is he isn’t worried about re-injuring the rib and he simply needs time to find the form he was carrying early in the season as he won the Australian Open and racked up a 20-match winning streak that took him to the Indian Wells final.

“I haven’t been able to practise any shot,” he said. “I started to serve practically here in Madrid, day before I came here maybe. And before that, I haven’t been able to practise my serve a single time.

“I tried not to make a lot of movements, but try to recover as fast as possible. It’s been a period that I haven’t been able to do a lot of things. So as you can imagine, it’s been six weeks of which I started to train two weeks ago. Well, first week I was just training half an hour per day, and very, very gently, very softly.”

Like a pre=season

In Madrid, Nadal hopes to make up for lost time. The rib is 100 percent, he says, and he’s not at risk. That means he can do double sessions.

“I’m doing a double session of training today, the day before yesterday too, and I’m trying to face these days like a little bit of preseason, face them as a preseason without thinking a lot that, you know, this tournament – I haven’t had the time for the preparation, and that’s the way I have to face it.”

Nadal could potentially face Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals and Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, if things go well for him in Madrid. But he’s not worried too much about that. He knows the key is just to return to the match court.

“It’s a very tight tournament for me,” he said. “We will have to take the positive things and perhaps I will have good moments playing on court… We have to be humble day after day to see what happens, try to improve day after day, always with the goal to talking about next week. Unfortunately I have the injury in the ribs, and that’s the fact.”

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