Unsure of form and away from his young son, Rafael Nadal back to the “try my best” mode

The Spaniard says he hopes to be competitive after struggling with an abdominal issue over the past few months

Rafael Nadal, Rolex Paris Masters 2022 Rafael Nadal, Rolex Paris Masters 2022 | Federico Pestellini / Panoramic

Rafael Nadal will return to the court for the first time since the Laver Cup on Wednesday when he plays Tommy Paul in the second round of the Paris Masters.

In many ways, it’s surprising to see Nadal on court at Bercy again; he’s only played the event eight times, he’s never won it and he’s had to pull out during the event three times because of injury.

And that’s before we take into account the fact that the 36-year-old became a father just last month.

Just what kind of shape will Nadal be in, having struggled over the summer with abdominal issues? Even the 22-time Grand Slam champion is not sure.

“I don’t know,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Let’s see on the competitive level how I manage. In older bodies like my one, it’s easier to know how the things are going when you are playing tournaments in a row.

“When you are coming back from a period of time outside of the competition, it’s difficult to know how you’re going to be playing, how your body is going to respond, because it’s obvious that the tour level is different, that the amount of practice that I can have at home, no.”

Nadal: “I am going to try to be competitive. Let’s see”

Despite his physical issues of late, Nadal arrives in Paris as the world No 2 on the back of another outstanding year, winning two more Grand Slam titles, in Australia and at Roland-Garros. His tennis level is there.

“It’s true that have been an amazing year in terms of results, but at the same time is true that have been a tough year in terms of injuries,” he said.

“Just excited to be here. I am here to try my best. Then accept the things how the things are coming, no. Hopefully I will be ready for tomorrow and I am going to try to be competitive. Let’s see. I am excited about it.”

Rafael Nadal, US Open 2022
Rafael Nadal, US Open 2022 | © Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

If Nadal can survive his opener, his path to glory in Paris is not easy, as you might expect for one of the most famous Masters 1000 events on Tour.

A path with Paul, Shapovalov or Pablo Carreno Busta, Tsitsipas, Djokovic…

Denis Shapovalov or Pablo Carreno Busta will be waiting in round three while his quarter-final opponent is seeded to be No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Should he make it to the semis, he can expect Novak Djokovic, seeded No 6 this year, of third seed Casper Ruud, the man he beat at Roland-Garros in June for his record 14th Grand Slam title, while top seed and US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz is in the top half.

“I am proud about all the things that I was able to still be here in 2022,” Nadal said, summing up his memories of playing in Bercy, something he did for the first time in 2007, when he reached the final only to be beaten by David Nalbandian.

“Something that says that I did a lot of things well in my life, not only my tennis career; to hold the passion, to hold the love for the game and the spirit of fighting every day, every practice. So, yeah, proud about that. Just hope that I can enjoy again the last two events of the year.”

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